Americans go to the library more than the movies — here are 7 ways libraries can save you money


Last year, the average American visited the library 10.5 times, twice as often as they went to the movies, according to a Gallup poll.

While you may know the library is a great place to get free entertainment — because you can rent books and movies and also take advantage of story times and adult educations courses — you may not be aware of some unexpected goods and services libraries frequently loan out. This includes nontraditional items like violins and expensive software like Adobe Photoshop.

By familiarizing yourself with your library's offerings, you can save money on items and services. Here are seven unexpected things you can borrow or use at libraries today:

Museum passes

In 2019, Americans only went to a museum 2.5 times, according to the Gallup poll. But being a member of the library can make those outings cheaper. Almost half, 43%, of libraries offer free museum passes, according to 2017 data from library service company EBSCO.

For example, members of the Chicago Public Library can check out passes that admit a family of four to multiple institutions. (To use the library's family passes, there's a limit of two adults per group and one attendee must be under 18.) Passes include the Adler Planetarium, where admission is regularly $19 for adults and $8 for kids ages 8 to 11, and the Shedd Aquarium, where admission is $20 for adults and $15 for kids ages 8 to 11.

If you're a member of the Brooklyn Public Library, you can get free passes to many institutions, including the American Museum of Natural History, where admission is $23 for adults and $13 for kids ages 2 to 12.


Gardening — which a quarter of Americans consider their favorite hobby — cost the average household $503 last year, per the annual Garden Trends Report.

Before you blow your budget on plants, see if your local library has a seed collection. There are more than 660 such programs, according to Seed Library Social Network.

"We have a seed library to grow fruits and flowers and plants," Fritzi Bodenheimer, press officer of the Brooklyn Public Library, told Grow last year. "The only difference is we don't expect you to return the seeds. If you just send us a picture on social, we'd be happy with that."

Other libraries that offer seeds include the Maricopa County Library District in Arizona, the Fairfield Woods Branch Library in Connecticut, and the West Custer County Library in Colorado.

Wi-Fi hotspots

If your home internet is down, head to the library: Nearly all, 99%, of them have Wi-Fi, according to the American Library Association. And if you'd like to work outside the library, see if your branch loans out mobile Wi-Fi hotspots.

"We have a hotspot lending program, and that is extremely popular," Paty Bustamante, chief of Central Public Library in Houston, told Grow last year. "People can check out hotspots for three weeks at a time."

The Chicago Public Library, Seattle Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, St. Louis Public Library, and many more lend out mobile hotspots.

We have a hotspot lending program, and that is extremely popular. People can check out hotspots for three weeks at a time.
Paty Bustamante
Chief of the Central Public Library in Houston

Musical instruments

Instrument lending libraries are great if you want to learn to play a new musical instrument, but don't want to incur the cost of a hobby you're not yet committed to. Libraries in cities including Philadelphia, Sacramento, and Phoenix loan instruments.

The Brooklyn Public Library loans out a variety of instruments, including violins, guitars, ukuleles, and drum pads. "When we initially launched the musical instrument lending library, we had a long wait list, so we knew we had hit on something that was important to people," Bodenheimer says.


If you're undertaking some DIY home projects and what's in your garage won't suffice, your library may have the tools you're looking for. "I have my own screwdrivers for sure, but big-size tools like Allen wrenches are good, solid recurring renewals," Boston resident Crystal Lee, a frequent visitor to the Minutemen Public Library System, told Grow last year.

For example, an edger for your lawn can set you back $84 at Home Depot, but at the Sacramento Public Library you can borrow it for free. And at the Oakland public library, you can borrow a close quarter drill that would otherwise cost $124 at Home Depot.

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 onsite.

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.

3-D printer

A 3-D printer can print certain 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 3-D printer on Amazon costs $1,800.

If you're a member of your local library, you could get access to one 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.

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