Students, there’s one more card you should sign up for – a public library card.
The reason? Free stuff.
Libraries in the US have been going through a revamp lately in response to the digital revolution – both in your college campuses as well as in your host state’s libraries.
This means physical materials are slowly being phased out to make way for online content while reading spaces are now being repurposed into meeting rooms complete with all the tech gadgets necessary for any discussion.
The best thing about this is they are almost 100 percent FREE.
Yes, even for international students! Foreign citizens who are living locally can apply for a card at their local public libraries.
Apply for it, get it and don’t leave home without it. Think of it as a magical key to unlock this yummy list of free goodies:
1. Movies and TV shows
Netflix’s basic HD plans start at US$10/month, while Hulu’s price start at US$7.99/month. Whereas buying DVDs online can be really steep (example: 50 Shades Darker‘s Blu-ray is going for US$19.96 on Amazon).
At the library? A massive collection of DVDs for movies and TV shows are all free.
Even better is Kanopy, an on-demand video streaming service that boasts an impressive collection over 30,000 films featuring over 1,000 producers, including the famed Criterion Collection (film students, rejoice!) as well as a great selection of documentaries (Grey Gardens, Salesman, Ken Burns’ films) and independent films (Paris, Texas, Stranger Than Paradise, My Dinner With Andre).
When you get your reading list, head over to your nearest public libraries (or email them) to ask whether they have any. Most of the time, they’ll have some, if not all of the books you want. And if they don’t have them, they can order it from another library!
Some students have even gone through an entire semester without having to buy books – after all, there are many you don’t pick up again after classes are done. So save paper, save money, and borrow from the library.
The Los Angeles Public Library gives you online access to what they call, “All the news that’s fit to print”, i.e. The New York Times, AND if you’re old school and want to see what reading was like before the Internet, there’s the archive for the Los Angeles Times that lets you read this morning’s paper as well as headlines from as far back as 1881 (in downloadable PDF format too!).
4. Online databases
Subscription-based research databases can be expensive, and in some unfortunate cases, your school doesn’t subsidise access. In that case, pop over to your local library. They have been known to carry databases like EBSCOHost (online journal articles), Little Pim (foreign language classes for children) and Consumer Reports (review of consumer products, etc).
5. Cheap printing
A printer will take up space and is fairly unnecessary in these digital times. In money terms, the moolah invested in one will likely not be worthwhile since most universities accept electronic assignments. If you do need to print stuff, most public libraries let you print from the computer or copy machines and even 3D printers.
6. Online courses
At the Cleveland Public Library, patrons get free access to Gale Courses, an online platform that lets you take high-quality courses like computer applications, web design, accounting, and personal development. Houston Public Library offers Brainfuse – Adult Learning Centre for career resources and Microsoft Office help too.
It also has 24/7 access to Lynda.com’s vast library video tutorials by industry experts on subjects ranging from coding to foreign languages.
7. Special events
Libraries like the Cambridge Public Library organise up to 100 events each month, from author readings to guest lectures. It’s a great way to venture beyond your school’s campus, learn something new and mingle with your local community.
This week, the Santa Monica Public Library is celebrating Free Comic Book Day with a week of activities, including film screening, comic exhibitions and free comic giveaways.
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