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Save by using your library

It is a fact that the U.S. economy is in a downturn or a recession. People are worried about sky-rocketing gas prices and the cost of living, about losing jobs and finding jobs.

In today's economy, saving money becomes more important or necessary for many families.

One way to save money that many people might not think about is through use of the local library.

n To loan, not to buy

If you like to read books or magazines, checking them out from the library instead of buying can save you some money.

Most of the books we read are only read once. It makes more sense for me to loan them than to buy them. We normally don't buy something for only one time use and then let it collect dust.

I have not purchased any new books for myself for more than 10 years. The last time I had to buy a new book was when I was in graduate school. I couldn't get the textbook any other way.

The more I use libraries, the less need I have to purchase my own books.

Three years ago I went back to China for a visit. I visited an uncle in Beijing. He is a bookworm and loves books more than anything. So he spends most of his money on books.

His multiple homes are filled with bookshelves full of books and CDs. His private collection might be big enough to fill a small library.

While I envy him for owning thousands of books, I am glad that I don't have to own any books myself to enjoy the benefits of reading.

It doesn't matter whether I am rich or poor, whether I can afford it or not, I can use libraries and have access to most books I want to read.

Even if my local library doesn't have what I want in its own collection, I can usually still get it through the interlibrary loan.

That is the beauty of libraries in the U.S.

I don't really care about owning thousands of books. What if I have to move again? That would be a nightmare.

n Buy used

If you really like to own your books, you can buy used ones at libraries. You can often find nearly new books for $1 or less.

The Washington County Library has ongoing book sales in most branches. There is also a big book sale at several branches once a year.

n Recreation and entertainment

We don't usually think of library as a place for recreation and entertainment. But libraries offer plenty of services that serve such purposes.

If you want to watch movies, you don't have to go to movie theaters or rent DVDs from stores. You can get them for free from the library.

Yes, you do have to wait for their release to get them, and you can not get the instant gratification of watching the latest movie, but this is a small price you have to pay.

Libraries have books, videos and DVDs that offer instructional and do-it-yourself lessons.

If you want to use an exercise video for your home exercise, or learn to practice yoga or how to dance, learn a foreign language, check out the resources from the library.

If you don't have time to read, you can listen to books on tapes while driving or running or walking.

In addition to videos and DVDs, there are story hours all year around for children, and book clubs, meet-the-author or other special events for adults.

In summer, our library offers summer reading programs for kids, teens and adults.

n Internet access and computer usage

If you don't have a computer and Internet connection at home, you can go to any public library to use the public workstations there.

Computer usage is free but it's usually limited to one hour per day tracked by your library card number.

n Remote access

You don't have to physically go to the library to take advantage of some of its resources.

You can save the time of driving and the cost of gas if you just want to access its catalog and electronic databases, renew materials or ask a reference question. You can do all these online, from your home.

n Pass to museums

If you haven't heard about and taken advantage of "The Museum Adventure Pass," you should check it out at the library. You can use your library card to receive a Museum Adventure Pass.

Each pass is for two or four free admissions, depending on location, to one of the cultural destinations in Twin Cities, including Minnesota Zoo, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota History Center, Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, etc.

If you add up the cost of buying new books, DVDs, CDs, subscribing to magazines, going to movies and museums, you will realize how much you can save by using your local library.

Library services and resources are free to use. They are paid for by people living in the community through taxes. We all pay our share for the library services, why not take advantage of them and use them for our benefits, and save money?

Library use should really be a part of our resourceful living strategy.