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Back to School Guide: Public Libraries Part One

Back to School Guide: Public Libraries Part One

The school year brings many positives, children are back with their friends, extracurricular activities are back in session, and Friday night football. Enough said.

On the flip side, it brings many negatives, homework. For college students, book expenses. For teachers, well, you can’t drink every night.

Thankfully, your local library can help with some of those negatives. (Sorry teachers, I’ve yet to find a library event that offers wine.)

Let’s dive into part one, shall we?


*eBooks: If you enjoy reading off of your phone, tablet, or computer, eBooks are most likely the way to go. Just like checking out a hard copy, you can check out an electronic book. Most public libraries operate off of OverDrive. In order to check out an eBook, you must download the OverDrive app and sign into your public library with your card number and password (or pin). Larger libraries offer multiple copies of popular or best seller books, so if there is a waiting list for the hard copy, try looking into the digital edition.

When you download, you’ll most likely be presented two downloadable formats: EPUB and Kindle. You can read the Kindle edition on any Kindle or Kindle reading app, and those are only available from U.S. libraries and schools.

For most everything else, EPUB will be your download. For most downloads, click the EPUB download, and it will download to the bookshelf of your OverDrive app. The only exception is if the download provides an Adobe EPUB, in which you must register your device before reading.

This may seem like a lot of information, but rule of thumb: if you have a Kindle, download the Kindle option. Ever other device, choose EPUB.

*How eBooks can save you money: I was an English minor in college. Yes, this did require a lot of reading. (Not that I cared!) College students, and possibly high school students, if your professor/teacher will allow, use eBooks. Most libraries have a two week check out period. I know this amount of time on a syllabus was never allotted to one book. Maybe in high school, but ya’ll it’s been a while, times may have changed! During my college years and three semesters of literature classes, 17/24 books I read via eBook. There were a few that I bought hard copies of for the sole purpose of writing in them, but I did save a lot of money in required reading.

*ELECTRONIC MAGAZINES: I’m a 20-something female. I read many-a-magazine. After looking into what magazines were available at my library, I saved $125 a month by switching to digital. Let me repeat: $125 a month. THAT’S $1,500 A YEAR.

 Just think about your magazine reading routine for me for a moment. You get the magazine in the mail; you most likely thumb through it once, looking at the photos and short articles that interest you most. A day or two, maybe a week later, you come back to it and read the lengthier articles. Then you never pick it up again, right? It sits there on your coffee table until you binge clean and throw it away after you have four built up issues of Cosmopolitan. That’s me being optimistic that you pick up your magazine more than once! You can get these FOR FREE. I’ve been there. Here are the magazines I read monthly through my library: Real Simple, Self, Women’s Health, Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Parents Magazine, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Southern Living Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Yoga Journal. I only subscribe to Texas Monthly and Runner’s World, and I’ve gained more magazines that I enjoy reading from my library’s selection.

My library also offers: GQ, Men’s Health, ESPN Magazine, Elle, Esquire, Family Circle, Forbes, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, HGTV Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, Mother Earth News, National Geographic, New York Review of Books, O, The Oprah Magazine, Popular Science, Reader’s Digest, Seventeen, Shape, US Weekly, Weight Watcher’s, and Women’s Health. THESE ALONG WITH 53 OTHER MAGAZINES.

 Pro Tip: Some libraries don’t offer a digital version, but still have a subscription to the magazine. Pop in monthly after work, on a lunch break, or between soccer practice and music lessons to read your favorite magazine for free. It may be one more stop, but hey, it saves you $25 a month.

Compare and contrast ya’ll, compare and contrast.

*AUDIOBOOKS AND STREAMING: There are multiple apps these days for audiobooks and streaming music and video. But a downfall to most of these apps is that they require a subscription.

Most libraries have a fairly broad audiobook selection and offer an audiobook alongside the eBook.  This is a good option if you’re dying to read a book and the physical copy and eBook are unavailable. Audiobooks are also a solid option if you have a long commute.

The music and video streaming depends on your library’s subscription. They don’t have as extensive of a collection as Spotify or Netflix, but it’s a great option to explore if you’re looking to save money here or there.

*EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES: There are two resources that I think would be useful to teachers and students.

Tumblebooks is the first; it’s an online database for children and teens that focus on educational content. Their website describes it as a “read-along format that combines the flexibility of an eBook with full-length professional narration and sentence-by-sentence highlighting so kids can follow along.” During my time in Rapid City, I knew a teacher who used this feature in her classroom using the iPad and students would take turns reading paragraphs.

The second is World Book. If your library offers this service, you must have a login in order to access. The site offers an encyclopedia, dictionary, atlas, homework help, study aids, and curriculum guides. I’ve never used World Book, so I’m unsure of what the study aids and homework help include, but it’s worth looking into.

*GENEALOGY: My my, how far you can climb up the family tree. Most libraries’ genealogy departments are a mix of archival and digital. Libraries normally have a history or genealogy room focused on their city or county containing volumes, reels, and microfilms for the public’s use.  Census records, newspapers, birth indexes, marriage licenses, deed records and military records are normally included.

Some libraries have transferred these archives digitally. Your local library may have a subscription to or a genealogy service such as Ancestry Library Edition or HeritageQuest.  A subscription to isn’t exactly cheap; the library edition is a budget friendly option.

Just for your knowledge, The Church of Latter Day Saints has been researching genealogy and family history since 1894. The Salt Lake City Genealogical Library is the largest of its kind in the world.

Most local libraries are able to submit a request to the LDS Church and they will pull all the files on your family history and mail them to you, including microfilm. They also have an online database that can be found at

Whew! Do I sound like Hermione Granger yet with how many times I’ve said library?

Watch for the Back to School Guide Part Two later this week, I’ll be highlighting library events for children and adults.

-Go with the tide-

Back to School Guide: Public Libraries Part Two

Back to School Guide: Public Libraries Part Two

Back to School Guide

Back to School Guide