Music recording, 3D printing, and other pricey services you can get at the library for free


If you haven't found a reason to visit the library lately, you may be missing out on lots of opportunities to save money. Libraries provide a range of free services that can be valuable, beyond letting you borrow books.

The growing trend of library makerspaces has increased the amount of nontraditional services that libraries provide. These include things you might otherwise pay a lot of money for, like photo editing software, crafting tools, and more. Many of the services require you to bring your own supplies, but oftentimes using the machinery or space itself is free.

Here are five services you might find at your library:

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is $240 per year and the Adobe Creative Cloud, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, is $600 per year. But, by becoming a member of your local library, you could access it for free on site.

At the Los Angeles Public Library's Octavia Lab, which opened in this year, 10 computers have the entire Adobe Creative Cloud installed on them. The TECHLink lab at the Houston Public Library offers computers with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop on them. And at the Brooklyn Public Library, there are 10 iMac "stations" that include the Adobe Creative Cloud.

Music recording studio

Some libraries have a recording studio where you can book time to record your music, a service that Thumbtack estimates can otherwise run $40 to $50 per hour. For example, at Houston's Public Library you can use a set of in-studio instruments along with amplifiers, microphones, mixers, and more. Other systems that offer this include the Brooklyn Public Library, Chattanooga Public Library, and the Los Angeles Public Library.

The Los Angeles Public Library has other film and audio studio offerings as well. "We have a green screen and we have a memory lab where you can bring in any kind of VHS and put it on a flash drive," says Peggy Murphy, the library's collection services manager.

We have a green screen and we have a memory lab where you can bring in any kind of VHS and put it on a flash drive.
Peggy Murphy
library collection services manager

Craft cutting machines

Crafters use cutting machines to work with a wide variety of materials, customizing gifts, engraving items, and making other projects. For example, you can use it to monogram wooden coaster, cut yourself a unique pendant for a necklace, or personalize some Jenga blocks. Buying your own cutter at Micheal's can set you back $350, but today more and more libraries are carrying them.

At the Chicago Public Library's Makers Lab, you can use a laser cutter and an engraver, says their spokeswoman Olivia Kuncio. "You can come in and get assistance from staff or do it yourself."

The ideaLab at the Denver Public Library, TECHLink lab at the Houston Public Library, Octavia Lab at the Los Angeles Public Library, and the Chattanooga Public Library all provide crafting cutters.

3D printer

A 3D printer, like its name indicates, can print three-dimensional objects. You can use it to create stencils, pencil cups, or even turn your kid's drawings into figurines, but even a lower-end 3D printer on Amazon costs $1,800.

If you're a member of your local library, you could get access to this expensive machine for free. The Maricopa County Library District in Arizona has one, as does the Los Angeles Public Library, Cleveland Public Library, Houston Public Library, and Chicago Public Library.

Sewing machine

A Singer sewing machine at Michael's costs $160. If you're an avid sewer, purchasing one may be worth it. But if you need a sewing machine to complete tasks just every once in a while like hemming pants or embroidering a pillow, see if your local library has one you can use or borrow.

The Houston Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, and Chicago Public Library all have sewing machines to use on-site.

Services at local libraries vary, and it never hurts to check what yours is loaning out. "I think our website is our most underutilized thing, because if more people went and looked at it they would see all the great collections we have and programming we're doing," Murphy says.

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