I was surprised to hear Oprah Winfrey, who seems über-tuned in to just everything in this country, recently admit on her show that she was unaware libraries loaned out movie CDs for free.

For all those also not in the know, or who haven’t hit a library since their school days, these citizen friendly media centers currently offer a rich assortment of freebies. Depending on the location and branch, you can enjoy free newly published hard covers, free perusal of daily newspapers and magazines, free computer time (and sometimes even free computer instruction-which I myself utilized), free concerts, free lectures and free story hours for children. You can also cart home without charge piles of audio books, music and movie CDs. Impressed?

And that doesn’t include their glorious treasury of books, many out of print for decades and impossible to find outside library doors.


Nor does it include the savoring of rare, beautiful, sometimes quirky theatrical, print, poster, map, media and art collections owned by the likes of the New York Public Library. Pictured here are some treasures from their spectacular collections that can also be admired online and printed out and that I shot on my computer screen.

Also at the New York Public Library, You can now go online and not only order books and have them delivered to the branch of your choice, but they will also send you a post card when they’re ready to be picked up. How’s that for convenience?

Want to take magazines home and read them at your leisure? Easy. Glossy magazines cost more than a pretty penny these days and many city readers are thoughtful enough to donate theirs to the library. Recently I made a huge haul of New Yorker and National Geographic Magazines at my local branch when I was lucky enough to pass the free magazine box only seconds (so the security guard informed me) after the librarian deposited them there.

And let us not forget their invaluable collection of “how to” books. Where else can you learn how to do so many new things for free? In putting together this web site, in fact, I had to learn how to code some unfamiliar computer languages, so what learning source did I check first? The library of course, which stocked a wide variety of computer code books to get me rolling in that foreign territory.

So if your finances are a little (or a lot) dodgy these days-or even if you’re currently high in greenback country–treat your spirits to a library visit and all its unique offerings.