library card, a simple plastic rectangle you can get for free at any public library, has some surprising benefits that you may not be aware of. 

Yours is probably tucked away somewhere between your expired gift cards and collection of old drivers licenses--or maybe you never bothered to get one, assuming library cards are only for bookworms named Matilda. But a library card can do so much more than just check out books. 

Did you know that you can use a library card to gain access to online learning courses? Some library cards even serve as passes for museums and zoos! Keep reading to find out about the fifteen ways you could be using your library card. 

Take Advantage of All the Ways You Can Use Your Library Card

From Programs to Meals to Magazines, Your Library Card Will Open Up Your World

White bookshelves in a library
Save time by having your books waiting for you as soon as you walk in.

Request Pickup

If your library has an online portal, chances are you’ll be able to put books on hold and request pickup right from the comfort of your own home. Placing books on hold ensures that your visit remains speedy, getting you in and out in no time.

Picking up books is useful for those juggling busy schedules--and helps you know beforehand whether the book you’re looking for is available. Go to your library’s website and check out their virtual circulation desk.

Two hand holding a kindle with a croissant in the background
Download an ebook app onto your tablet, laptop, or phone and take thousands of titles with you wherever you go.

Download Ebooks

While many prefer good old-fashioned paper, with libraries around the country closed and plenty of free time on your hands you may want to finally try out an ebook to see what all the fuss is about. Ebooks are portable and efficient--a great way to access thousands of books while on the go or to save on space in your home. 

You can use your library card to open a free account on Overdrive and Hoopla, granting you access to thousands of free ebooks. These apps can be accessed with library cards from public and school libraries--the perfect way to take advantage of college libraries even while they’re closed!

In addition to novels and nonfiction, you can also check out digital versions of cookbooks, kids books, picture books, and more--create your account today and take advantage of this amazing opportunity without ever leaving your house.

Popcorn spilled on a table
Bring out the popcorn and have an at-home movie night--all thanks to your library card!

Watch Movies for Free

If you feel like you’ve watched everything on Netflix and have exhausted Hulu’s offerings, consider checking out Kanopy. All you need is an internet connection and a free account to be able to access thousands of movies via your public library card or through your university library card.

With critically acclaimed movies, foreign films, comedies, award winning documentaries, and more, Kanopy is the perfect streaming service for those looking for something new to watch. They even have a Kanopy Kids collection to keep younger audiences entertained.

Side view of a door and lock
A simple lock can easily be opened using your plastic library card--if there’s a deadbolt involved, however, that’s another story entirely.

Unlock a Door

Locked out of your apartment? If you have a simple knob lock with a spring- or slanted-latch, your library card could come to the rescue. Insert the card into the gap between the door and frame next to the doorknob. Tilt the card towards the knob and then bend it back towards the door frame to slip it under the latch--this alone may be enough to pop the door open.

If this doesn’t work, try wiggling the card back and forth while leaning on the door to apply pressure. Using a library card to unlock a door may not be the use you envisioned when the librarian first handed you your card, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

(Keep in mind, this technique has been known to permanently bend library cards.)

Child reading a book
Instill a lifelong love of learning in your kids at a young age by bringing them to your local library for storytime. 

Try Out These Kids Programs

Libraries have all sorts of programs for kids to take advantage of--reading programs are the most common, but your library may even offer tutoring services and free summer camp programs.

Storytime, the most popular and well known library program, is the perfect time for parents to meet other parents and for younger children to make friends. Plus, it boosts literacy skills!

Woman writing in a notebook
Ensure you have all the quiet and resources you need to study successfully by using your library’s available study rooms.

Reserve a Room for a Book Club or Study Group

Most libraries with meeting rooms enable you to reserve space for your book club or other group to meet up. Talk with your librarian about using their meeting spaces to organize book clubs, bake sales, and other events.

Big public libraries often have rooms on hold specifically for study groups as well. If you’re looking for a space to meet up, your local library probably has room for you.

Magazines spread on a table
Say goodbye to the piles of unread magazines and newspapers in your house--using an online database makes it much easier to keep track of the articles you want to read.

Stay Up to Date On the Latest Magazines and Newspapers

Cut down on paper waste without missing out on your favorite magazines--with your library card, you’ll be able to cancel your magazine subscriptions and enjoy articles and more online with RBDigital

Use your library membership information to log onto RBDigital and check out their selection of comics, magazines, and newspapers.With hundreds of popular titles in circulation you can stay up to date on the latest news and even access their wellness classes or educational resources.

Woman typing on keyboard
Add to your professional repertoire by taking advantage of courses in coding and design.

Access Tutorials and Courses

Build your resume and brush up on useful skills for the workplace by using your library card to gain access to Lynda. Lynda is partnered with LinkedIn and has classes taught by industry experts that are guaranteed to boost your profile.

This electronic resource connects you with classes on software development, design, photography, business, web development, marketing, and more. When you complete courses through Lynda and their LinkedIn partnership, you can even receive certificates of completion. 

Woman reading from above
Learning a language is easy when you have great resources available.

Learn a New Language

Now is the perfect time to do something you’ve always wanted to do: learn a new language. With Mango Learning and Transparent, learning a new language has never been easier. Adding another language to your repertoire is a great way to expand your worldview and has even been proven to boost native language proficiency.

Mango Learning is an award winning program with over 70 languages and utilizes an adaptive algorithm that structures your learning to make it more practical for your individual goals. Transparent has over 110 languages--including ESL--with varying difficulty levels, making it perfect for new learners as well as those looking to brush up on their skills.

Person holding book up and reading
Make the most of your library card by using it to prepare your kids--or yourself--for standardized testing.

Prepare for the SAT, ACT, or AP exam

Let’s be honest, SAT prep (not to mention the actual cost of the test itself) can present a real financial obstacle. With so much emphasis placed on standardized testing, there’s a lot of pressure to prepare for these exams months and years in advance--a costly endeavor at the best of times. 

Thankfully there are plenty of resources for test prep--including tutorials and practice exams--that you can get for free just by using your public library card. Learning Express Hub connects you with these services and many more. 

Most public libraries and even some universities have their own online portals where you can access these resources--check with your local library to find out what your library card gets you access to.

People discussing around a table
A discussion guide ensures you get the most out of the books you read and keeps everyone on topic.

Get Book Discussion Kits for Your Class or Club

Thinking of starting your own book club but not sure where to begin? Checking out a book discussion kit is the easiest way to learn how to structure your conversations. Book kits include conversation starters and even copies of the book itself--most public libraries provide a service like this.

Book discussion kits are especially helpful during summer months for parents looking to encourage their children to read. Read books as a family and have conversations at the dinner table about plot, character, and content. 

Backpack on a bench
Your library card can take you outside when you use it to reserve a nature pack.

Check Out a Nature Backpack

Nature Backpacks help families and clubs explore nature in state parks. Get the most out of your library card by using it to check out a pack at your public library--packs generally include passes to state parks, pocket guides, dip nets, activity guides, bug containers, and even science lessons.

Using your library card to get outside and get active is something not everyone thinks about. Check with your library to see what nature programs they offer.

Peanut butter and jelly
Get hearty, nutritious meals year round with the Lunch at the Library program.

Take Advantage of Meal Programs

Your library card can feed your kids! Lunch at the Library is a program providing children and teens with free summer meals as well as summer activities and reading programs. The program is free with your library membership and has no qualifying requirements.

This program ensures that children who rely on school meals still receive adequate nutrition during the summer months and helps supplement summer learning with structured programs. 

Man with headphones in a subway
Listening to your favorite books can help you enjoy them in a whole new way.


Audiobooks can be a welcome break from screens and are a perfect way to stay entertained while doing chores. Listen to literature as you hike through nature, revisit childhood favorites on your daily commute, and help your kids navigate early literacy skills by having them follow along with their audiobooks.

With your library card you can get access to audiobooks by creating an account on Overdrive or Hoopla--for free, of course. 

Family tree, homemade
Your summer project this year can be tracking down where your ancestors came from.

Find Out Where You Came From With a Family Tree

Use your library card to find out where you came from. FamilySearch partners with public libraries to provide access to genealogical materials like books, microfiche, and publications. You can track your family’s history and build your family tree easily using this online resource.

Ancestry Library Edition is a version of Ancestry available to members of participating libraries. While you can’t build a family tree with this version, you can still use records and genealogical tracking tools to complete extensive research on your family. Surprise your family with a trip to your homeland (not covered with your library membership, unfortunately) and dig deep into your history. 

Get the most out of your library card this summer by exploring everything you didn’t know you could do with your card--learn a language, grab a meal, get out in nature, all by using your library card!

Aug 24, 2020

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