TOWSON, Md. — A lot of families are tightening their budgets and sometimes that means giving up subscriptions and cutting back spending on entertainment.
However, people can still stream movies and TV shows for free or read username and password-protected newspapers online for free, if they know where to look.
Jill McFadden used to take her kids to the library to pick out books, now she accesses the library online to save herself the trip and some money.
“It’s really great to be able to have so many things at my fingertips and not have to pay for them. So, especially a family on a tight budget and lots of kids, it was really nice to be able to have, to try new things more often, because I’m being able to get them for free,” McFadden said.
Baltimore County Public Library director Sonia Alcantara-Antoine explained there's a lot more families can check out with a library card than books.
“Yes, we still have books. We will always have books. But, we’re beyond books now, and the way people access information. We have kept up with that, so through the public library, you can download materials onto your computer, or your cellphone, or your mobile device, you can stream as well,” Alcantara-Antoine said.
It comes in handy for people want to read a newspaper article online but hit a paywall, or want to watch movies and tv shows but gave up the cost of cable.
There is no need to share passwords and usernames though as your own library card can unlock access to a world of entertainment and information, for free.
“Individually, if you subscribe to Netflix, and Hulu, and New York Times, and Disney+, and Amazon Prime, and on, and on, and on, it could really rack up very quickly. So, the beauty about the public library card is that you can get access to similar content, or some of the same content but all for free at your public library,” Alcantara-Antoine said.
The pandemic changed the way people go to work and go to school.
During the pandemic, the library expanded its digital collection, giving library cardholders free access, 24 hours a day/7days a week, to thousands of e-books, audiobooks, movies and tv shows, as well as newspapers and magazines. All of the material can be accessed through a series of apps listed on the Baltimore County Public Library website.
“I downloaded the app from the library and connected it to my library card which was pretty simple. Then, I’m usually looking for audiobooks, and so then you download those particular files to your phone or device, which was also fairly intuitive for someone who’s not very technically technologically savvy,” Alcantara-Antoine said.
“It’s a great way to economize, particularly since the gas prices are going up, the cost of everything is going up. It’s really expensive to be able to figure out how to entertain your children or to find something fun to do,” Alcantara-Antoine said.
While more people are returning to the library in-person or a family outing, to study, or pick up a book, others less familiar with what else there is to do there might find a lot has changed especially if it's been a few years since their last visit.
“We have so much to offer beyond what people think about libraries and so just come back, check us out, see what we’ve got to offer, you’ll be surprised,” Alcantara-Antoine said.
As with hard copies of books there is a limited number of e-books or audiobooks which can be checked out online at the same time.
However, unlike hard copies of books, there’s no need to worry about returning them as they expire when due.
Getting a library card is also free. People can apply online or in-person but access will be limited to online services for online applicants.
It's advised to apply in person to gain full access to all that the library has to offer. Applicants will have to fill out an application, show proof that you live, work, or go to school in Maryland.