The public library ceased to be simply a repository of books decades ago. Today, the public library is connected to the virtual world in several ways.
Do you want to stream music, movies and audiobooks? Consult a hundred magazines? Learn a new skill? You can do all of this for free through your local public library with their wide offering of free apps.
Best of all, you don’t have to be at a library to use these tools, although you do need a library card from your local library. Once you have that, you can discover these resources at home or on the go. For your information, some content – such as particular movies or magazines – may vary from library to library.
Content can be accessed on any device you have internet on – smartphones, tablets, laptops and smart TVs.
Five free streaming apps from the library
- LinkedIn Learning
With Hoopla Streaming Service, you can watch movies and TV shows, listen to music and audiobooks, and read e-books or comics. They have tons of new stuff, like Madeline Miller’s “The Song of Achilles” and Mary Kubica’s “Local Woman Missing” in addition to classics you might want to re-read, like the Harry Potter series. Moreover, the site is beautifully designed, both as a desktop browser and as an application. (Discover the app via Apple, Google and Amazon.) Your library may limit the number of titles you can view with Hoopla, but some are as generous as 10 articles per month. .
Here’s how to get the most out of this service:
Lose yourself in the soulful beats of the latest Harry Styles albums (if you haven’t listened to ‘Harry’s House’, you’re totally missing out) or the resilient tunes penned by Fiona Apple on ‘Fetch the Bolt Cutters’. The kids will think you’re the best when you blast through the “Encanto” soundtrack. Another bonus: it’s ad-free entertainment. If you add a musician to your favorites section, Hoopla will notify you of the next acquisition of one of their albums.
Hoopla shines in this genre. Do you like to lose yourself in a great reading of historical fiction? It’s time to listen to “The Lost Apothecary” by Sarah Penner. If you like falling asleep to a story, Hoopla’s “sleep timer” will let you fall asleep without missing a chapter. Browse ads and start making your must-listen list.
Movies and TV Shows
Looking for a new favorite movie? Hoopla will suggest new content based on what you’ve already watched or you can search for something new yourself. They have a lot of new releases, like the latest seasons of “Father Brown”, “Finding Alice” and Murdoch Mysteries.
With Hoopla, you never have to wait for an eBook to be available to read it, like in a physical library. You will also have an expiration date, when it will magically disappear from your device, and it will be returned to Hoopla. If they have the title you want, you can read it right away. They seem to have more mysteries and romance novels than other genres, but they stock so many eBooks that you should be able to find some that you like. Discover “The Woman in the Library” by Sulari Gentill, “George Michael” by James Gavin or “All the Pretty Girls” by JT Ellison.
Graphic novels and comics
You will be impressed with the variety of Hoopla. We’re fond of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s “Slaughterhouse-Five,” but you should also check out Andi Watson’s “Paris” and Joseph Sieracki’s “Ghosts of Science Past.”
If you love streaming audiobooks, movies, and music through Hoopla, you can even cancel your Audible, Netflix, and Spotify accounts. Canceling Audible would save at least $8 per monthcanceling Netflix would save you at least $9.99 per month and canceling Spotify Premium would save you at least $9.99 per month.
Turn to Kanopi if you’re looking for free movies, says Gabi Toth, a senior adult programming and services librarian in Massachusetts who also specializes in library streaming apps. They have thousands of documentaries and movies available, such as ‘Lady Bird’, ‘The Central Park Five’ and ‘Leave No Trace’. Kanopy also specializes in documentaries, accessible through your public or university library. All you need is a library card.
Overdrive is best known for its selection of eBooks and magazines, but you can also rent movies and audiobooks. Students can get school eBooks and audiobooks through Sora, a new free reading app designed specifically for students by OverDrive.
You can use the desktop browser or the mobile app. If you want to use the app, you will first need to download the Libby app.
With its cartoon of a smiling librarian, Libby is designed to welcome new users. Use it to read eBooks and listen to audiobooks many of which have long waits if you go to the library to get a hard copy.
Remember when I said you can only view a certain number of titles per month through Hoopla? That’s why you also need OverDrive. This streaming service offers unlimited videos, eBooks, and audiobooks.
Thanks to my library system, OverDrive makes you wait for a title to become available before you can view it. This means that you may have to wait a while before you can check out a popular book, but the wait is usually no longer than a week or two. This is because the library license limits downloads.
If you’re using the Libby app, it’ll tell you exactly how long you’ll have to wait for a title to become available. You can also keep track of your eBooks with emoji ratings: thumbs up (loved it), thumbs down (didn’t like it), or a pile of books (want to read it).
OverDrive has a large collection of popular titles. Here is a sample of what is available:
Check out Taylor Jenkins Reid’s “Malibu Rising” novel that sounds like the juiciest, most gossipy, best-written story of all time. E-books are incredibly popular through OverDrive, with 506 million e-books and audiobooks, e-books and digital magazines viewed in 2021, according to the company. Popular genres are children’s books, young adult fiction and non-fiction, comic books, and graphic novels. The top three viewed eBooks of 2020 were “Where the Crawdogs Sing” by Delia Owens, “Becoming” by Michelle Obama, and “Educated” by Tara Westover.
“Silver Linings Playbook” may have been released in 2012, but the chemistry between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence is timeless. If you’re worried about what your kids might be watching, you can use “audience filters” to make sure your kids are browsing age-appropriate content.
Check out “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by VE Schwab. It’s a thriller about what happens when you trade your soul to live forever.
If you use OverDrive and Hoopla together, you can save around $38 by canceling Netflix, Spotify, and Audible and buying fewer eBooks.
4. LinkedIn Learning
LinkedIn Learning (formerly Lynda.com) is an online education platform that offers over 13,000 courses in software development, design, business, web development, photography and more.
Since July 2022, LinkedIn Learning costs $29.99 per month for a basic subscription or $19.99 per month for an annual subscription (both options come with a one-month free trial). So if you use your library account to access its services, you save up to almost $30 per month.
Specialized in electronic manuals, BookBoon will allow you to skip the college bookstore tab. They have over 1,500 free e-textbooks on everything from engineering to academic writing. If you need more or have a student, you might need to upgrade to the $6 per month version (the first 30 days are free). The average full-time undergraduate at a four-year school spends $1,240 a year on books, according to recent data from the College Board. Thus, these savings can significantly reduce college bills.
How much can you save by using free library apps?
Using Hoopla and OverDrive instead of Netflix, Audible, Spotify and Amazon eBooks could save you $38 per month. Learning through LinkedIn Learning could save you $20 to $30. Reading textbooks through BookBoon can save around $1,200 a year if you have a student at home. That’s a total of $158 to $167 in savings per month.
Are you still hesitating to use these resources? Wondering if your particular library offers them all? Visit your local librarian or chat with one online. (Some states, such as Florida, offer virtual librarians.) They will be happy to introduce you to the world of online tools.
Danielle Braff contributes to The Penny Hoarder.