My mom visited me recently. She’d just taken a new job, and the commute is about 45 minutes either way. She praised the existence of audio books and how they make the drive seem like nothing. Then she dropped a bomb on me — she gets them all for free at the library.

It’s not like I never knew the library existed, or that they make tons of resources available. I’d just never given it thought, or bothered to check it out. I hadn’t stepped in a library for decades — the last time might have been during college, and that was only because I was forced to.

I spend a lot of money on books. They line my shelves. My Kindle is packed with them. Audible has been my best friend on long drives, outdoor walks, and treadmill marathons. I can’t begin to imagine what my total spending comes to.

Why not see what I can get for free?

So I went to the library. It’s nothing like I remember a library looking like — underlit rows of towering shelves, intimidating librarians, and behemoth card catalogs.

This is like a Barnes & Noble, I thought.

And the people are really nice. And helpful.

This is pretty darn cool.

I won’t spend much time on everything that the library does other than lend books and other media. The institution has always been involved in the community, offering children’s programs, lectures, and other helpful resources.

When I began learning what else they’ve been up to for the last several years, I was blown away.

Real World Awesomeness

Want to start a business? The library’s got programs for that. What’s 3D printing all about? The library will let you experiment. Have you written a book? The library will happily consider it to be included in their circulation. Want to record a podcast or make a video? Step into the library’s production studio. Need a job? The library will help you find the resources you need.

It’s more than passively offering tons of information. The library is actively bettering people’s lives by giving them real-world help. People pay out the nose to learn how to produce video or get started in 3D printing. The library realizes that skills like these are more and more in demand.

They’ve become very forwad-facing, equipping and empowering people to learn and grow. And, most importantly, they encourage us to go out there and do something with those skills and knowledge.

Digital Awesomeness

Audio books, ebooks, movies, and music are nothing new to the library. But they’ve embraced the mobile revolution. Connect your library card to an app like Overdrive or Hoopla, and you’ll have access to tons of audio books, ebooks, and video without ever even stepping foot in a library.

When I started browsing, I was bummed that I’d already paid for a lot of what they have for free.

I downloaded the Overdrive app, and began digging in. Within days, I’d gone through the first two Hunger Games books. I’d downloaded a couple ebooks — ones I wouldn’t normally buy, but picked up anyhow. They’re free, so why not?

And get this: you can even check out mobile hot spots. Just show up, sign on the dotted line, and take Internet access with you. For free. Unbelievable.

Feel-Good Awesomeness

The calendar of events detailed upcoming programs and events — things for kids (the Lego club rocks), writers’ workshops, computer training sessions, and the like. All good stuff.

But then I noticed something really cool: yoga and QiGong classes.

People pay crazy cash for this stuff in the real word, right? And here it is for free. I’m hitting some of these up.

The library’s become a resource for a better life. It’s not just a repository of information anymore. Learning and growing isn’t just about burying your nose in books — it’s all-encompassing, addressing wellness, skill, and creativity.

And it’s free. Take advantage.

Neville Medhora of the Kopywriting Kourse wrote a great article about the library — it’s definitely worth a read.