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Health & Wellness

Free Benefits That Come with a Library Card

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1.5 billion. That’s the number of in-person visits to public libraries annually. That’s the equivalent of more than 4 million visits every day.

And that’s not the only impressive statistic from the American Library Association. Take these for example:

There are 17,566 public libraries across the United States.

There were 96.5 million attendees at public library programs in 2013. That’s more than the attendance at all major leagues baseball and basketball games combined.

While Americans check out an average of eight books a year, you might be surprised to learn all the great free benefits that come with a library card. As Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne, president of the Public Library Association, points out, “every public library is unique and each responds to the needs of their particular community.”

Visiting your local branch in person or online is the best way to keep up to date with the offerings. Here are some great freebies you’ll likely find:

Free Wi-Fi and access to computers. These amenities are offered at just about every public library in the country.

Online support. Ninety percent of libraries will help patrons with basic internet skills and 97 percent help people complete online government forms. The Westerville Public Library in Ohio has a program called Borrow a Librarian where you can schedule a 30-minute session with a librarian for personalized hands-on tech advice on creating an email account, downloading apps and ebooks, editing photos or videos, and more. Cardholders who are unable to get to the library might even qualify for one-on-one assistance in their home.

Libraries offer services that may help keep communities healthy. More than three out of four libraries offer online health resources. Nearly 60 percent provide programs on finding health insurance and help people find and evaluate health information. About one in four public libraries even offers fitness classes. For example, the Hope Library in Rhode Island offers twice-weekly senior fitness classes that include stretching, light weight lifting, chair exercises, a bit of yoga and nutritional guidance.

Your local library likely has programs to make sure that everyone can indulge in their love for reading. These programs may include collections of large-print books, books-by-mail programs for people who can’t make it into the library because of a disability, and digital “talking books” and special players for people who have low-vision, are blind or have difficulty holding a book. The San Francisco Public Library even lends rolling walkers that library cardholders can use while they’re roaming the shelves.

A library card enables you to enjoy your favorite reading, entertainment and educational materials, your way. Through apps like Hoopla and Overdrive you’ll have access to a vast universe of ebooks, audiobooks, movies, music and TV shows. Other digital resources allow you to access thousands of local, national and international magazines and newspapers, and you can search digital archives going back decades. Online learning resources, such as Lynda.comTutor.com and MangoLanguages.com provide always-available instruction in every subject imaginable, from conversational French to screenwriting or web design.

The modern library lets you borrow things that go far beyond books. According to a recent story in American Libraries Magazine, some nontraditional items circulating at libraries in North America include sewing machines, fishing equipment, snowshoes, apple pickers, microscopes and bird-watching kits.

Programming at local libraries includes hosted book clubs, story time for kids, art classes for seniors and more. A recent events calendar at New York’s Brooklyn Public Library offers classes in making soap carvings, a swing dancing series on the plaza, movie screenings and “Library Lanes,” a virtual bowling league for older adults.

To find your local public library and discover more about what libraries offer, visit ilovelibraries.org.

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