Sometimes, the best things in life really are free!

This article, by Sarah Sheldon, was originally published in the Arizona Daily Star on November 19, 2023.

These days, I often find myself skeptical about anything that presents itself as free. All too often these things come with hidden costs, like surprise recurring fees, or bombardments of advertisements in lieu of a monetary cost. But what if I told you that a place exists, useful beyond your imagination and free for everyone? That place is the library—and with a library card, you open yourself up to a whole world of possibilities. I’m not exaggerating! The Library has so much to offer. We have programs, from Storytimes to Job Help, and we have nature Walks and author Talks and Interlibrary Loans, but today I really want to emphasize our lush and bountiful e-Resources.

Let me give you an idea of what we offer, starting with a few my personal favorites. We have Ancestry Library Edition, CultureGrams, Freegal Music, Hoopla, Libby, and NoveList. Is your head spinning yet? And that’s not even close to all of them! In honesty, if I listed them all and explained the awesome utility of each, we’d both be here for hours. You should be thankful they gave me a word limit. If I asked you to guess how many resources we had on our website’s E-Library page, how many would you guess? Furthermore, how many do you think would be relevant to you and your interests or needs? Well, I’ve got a hint for you—for both questions, the answer will be more than you think!

We are an institution built to encourage lifelong learning, and as such we have something for all ages and all walks of life. If you want to indulge your inner curiosity, I’d recommend Pronunciator, a language learning website offered for free through the library. Or perhaps Ancestry Library Edition might be the thing to pique your curiosity—it has some limits that differentiate it from the subscriber edition of Ancestry, but it still allows you access to their database of information. If you’re a student of any age, perhaps you would be interested in Brainfuse, an online tutoring service that you have access to with your library card. Or if you have a project to do, Gale in Context can help you find reliable resources on the person or topic you are researching.

We’re also an institution built on offering free resources across a wide range of topics, so we provide vital access to programs like WinWay, which among other things, makes creating resumes a breeze. We can help you prepare for a GED test, we offer free practice tests and study materials for the Civics Test, and we even have free DMV Permit Practice Test materials! We also offer access to LearningExpressLibrary (Elementary, Middle, High School, Computer Skills, Career Center, Test Prep), which has a wealth of tutorials regarding teaching career and computer skills.

Don’t have a computer or internet at home? Not to worry, all our branches have computers that are free to use, regardless of whether you have a library card! Every branch has free Wifi if you prefer connecting with your own devices. Does technology intimidate you? We’re here to point you in the right direction without an ounce of judgement. No library patron is an island!

If you don’t have a library card yet, we do what we can to make having a library card accessible to as many people as possible. Can’t make it to the library for whatever reason? You can sign up for an e-Card that will give you access to all our digital resources, no problem. Don’t have a Pima County address or are experiencing homelessness? Not to worry, if you live in Arizona, you’re eligible.

The library is ready and waiting to be explored by you, provided you take the first leap- and I, for one, can’t wait to see you there!

An E-Library enthusiast, Sarah Sheldon celebrated their fifth anniversary at Pima County Public Library in September 2023. They are a member of the Pride Team and have extensive knowledge about bullet journaling and Pokémon. In their spare time, they love learning about art, art history, and women in history.