Utilizing The Public Library To Complete Some Goals

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Have you heard of the Olympics Hangover? It’s when you stay up way too late watching “just one more event” and end up being red-eyed and unproductive the next day. So to counteract this, I used the public library for the first time in a long while. Funny thing: childless friends and co-workers had no idea where the library was. Only the parents did, since their kids use them. Why do we stop using the library as we grow older?

It was a productive visit, helping me to complete both a few short-term and lifetime goals:

  1. Read one financial book per week. Obvious one first. 😉 I put the following books on hold: Work Less, Live More and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Retiring Early. Hope to find some good nuggets.
  2. Visit a Foreclosure auction. In most areas, listing notices are required to be in the newspaper. I don’t have a subscription anymore, but I was able to look through the last 3 days of papers at the library for free. Looks like there will be one on September 9th at Noon at the county courthouse. Also, I found an announcement that a local self-storage place is also auctioning off the contents of the lockers that have been abandoned and unpaid. That might be interesting to go to as well.
  3. Learn more about financial analysis of potential rental property. Also found the Landlord’s Survival Guide and The complete guide to your first rental property. To judge the quality of books I’ve never heard of, I consider both Amazon.com review (if any) and also the number of copies in the city-wide system. I simply assume (right or wrong) that the better books will have more copies.
  4. Plan international travel. The in-branch pickings were slim, but I found a nice book on Spain. I should be able to find many more online. I’ve actually brought library travel books with me on international trips. (Well taken care of and returned on time, of course!)
  5. Learn a Foreign Language. Borrowed a few Pimsleur language audio CDs (intro to Cantonese and Spanish). The full sets of these often cost over $200. These will go great in the car and in my iPod while jogging.

Of course, not all goals can be done at the library. 🙂 I also recently signed up for a 3-day PADI scuba diving certification course over Labor Day weekend that will cost around $400 altogether. I’m really looking forward to it.

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  1. When I was in college I thotoughly enjoyed hanging out in the library. There’s not only nice books and newspapers but also free internet and you can check out new movies as well.

    Congrats on reaching some of your goals.

  2. In-branch pickings are usually slim since they are checked out by patrons. Most library systems provide online catalog and you can browse through them and place a hold on the things you want to checkout and they will contact you (mostly by email) when the items are ready for you to checkout.

    I no longer get DVDs from NetFlix or Blockbuster. I utilize my library system for DVDs and books and it is really very well equipped.

  3. I love libraries because they are so frugal. I have cards to library systems in three different counties. If one system doesn’t have what I’m looking for another one will. Libraries are one of the things I don’t mind paying taxes for (the others are parks and roads) 😀

  4. LaShandra Weaver says

    Libraries are so popular in Chicago that we’re raising property taxes to build more of them! It’s booktastic!

  5. We also recently got the Pimsleur CDs from the library to load on our ipods. Only later did I look up their cost and was floored. Talk about a savings!

  6. "Mo" Money says

    Good post. When visiting my mother-in-law (who doesn’t have internet), I could get a temp library card and read my emails etc for $3.50 for 30 day period. Nice! Our taxpayer dollars are paying for those facilities, why not use them!

  7. I’m glad to see you’re so far into completing your goals already.

    Maybe I should try actually writing mine down…..

  8. first time at the library in 15 years, I went to take a practice GMAT exam. My rational was it would be a quit setting and a test similuated atmphosher.

    Boy was I wrong. I had four attornys in their using it as an office to meet potential clients. I had no were to move, as space was limited. Put up with their conversations to each other, clients and cellphone use.

  9. with all this free time (note: working on 6 dozen goals at once) and knowlege of finance, why not find a nice little non-profit and spend some time volunteering for them?
    not trying to dismiss the personal growth, but i spend 15 hrs most weeks volunteers for a group, and while it cuts down on my reading time, its a great learning/management experience (manage a staff of 5 as board president) and i know we are doing great things for the community.

  10. I have been getting all of my reading material from the library, which is convenient and most importantly free. I’ve found libraries have a wide variety of CDs as well, I am less impressed with the DVD selections though.

  11. Ted Valentine says

    How does the “Olympic hangover” work on the west coast? Broadcast shuts down at 11 pm CDT here. That means 9 pm WDT, right?

  12. I have just begun to utilize the library as well. It is so much more economical to borrow a book for a class than to actually buy it, especially if it is something that never needs to be referred to again. I think I will have to check out the foreign language CD selection as well….

  13. I just surfed Google and found this amazing blog of yours!
    Great job dude!

  14. I can’t wait to go back to the library with my daughter. We went two weeks ago and got a Madeleine video which she loved, and there was an area with toys and other stuff for her to play with. The libraries seem to be very well appointed for children these days. It was like being at a big Barnes & Noble, but everything was free — nice.

  15. A 3 day SCUBA is a short training time. Are you sure it’s the full training? I’m an advanced open water diver soon to be rescue PADI. The price range is about right, but mine was like a week long (5/6 days) and I felt like I learned a lot more than in such a short period. We got more time to assemble and disassemble the gear each time we went into the pool and again with the open water. Good luck and keep the bubbles flowing!

  16. Jonathan,
    For the travel portion, I maybe able to help. I am currently living in Tallinn Estonia for the next 7 months and have a couple extra bedrooms you would be welcome to stay in for free. I figure the amount of knowledge you have provided for me over the years will make us even. n get out this way by Jan you would save on room and board. Old Town is only a 10 minute bus ride from my house. Just shoot me an email if interested.

  17. Have you heard of http://www.chinesepod.com? They have all the lessons free, but the supplemental materials are extra. You can get a week test-drive and download/RSS feed the lessons to your iPod. The Praxis people also did this for Spanish, French and Italian (called, {language}pod.com)

    I am in day 3 of the free trial and am considering the $9/month Basic subscription…

  18. The library is one of the great under-utilized resources in our society. I was one of those library advocates because of our kids. Now I am a library advocate because spending cold hard cash on everything I want to read or watch would send us to the poor house.

    Everyone in our family reads tons and tons of books and we rarely spend a penny on them. The library is the #1 source. We have an incredible service in Cleveland called Clevnet.


    Clevnet is 27 community libraries, including the massive Cleveland Public Library, who all function as one system. It can all be browsed and ordered online. Regardless of which library where our desired media physically resides, it is delivered within a few days to our local library.

    It also helps to find other ways to share books.

    I have two friends with whom I regularly swap SF novels. Found some great, great stuff via those guys; Alistar Reynolds, Jack McDevitt, John Cramer… I haven’t bought an SF book in ages but I read ‘new’ ones all the time.

    Another avenue for us is a relative who works in a book store. Every month we get many pre-sale samples that are not the type of book sold by their select little shop.

    25 years ago I would buy book after book after book and never get around to reading many of them. The frugal seasoning of my book beliefs has allowed me to freely and gladly give away books. With some exceptions of course, once I read a book I own, I have no problem giving it away.

  19. Yep, free DVDs, free internet, free magazines too. We also have the great online ordering system, where the books just get sent to your local branch. Awesome! I wonder if they have WiFi…

    James – I don’t know much about diving at all, but it seems to include everything required in a busy 3 days.

    Prework – Classroom/Book reading at home. DVD too.
    Day 1 – Classroom and in-pool training
    Day 2 – Dives 1 and 2
    Day 3 – Dives 3 and 4

  20. I rarely go to public library in San Francisco because books are old.

    I much rather reading at a mega bookstore, such as Borders or Barnes and Noble.

  21. Jonathan, Yes, in Miami we have WiFi in our libraries. ( I happened to have at least near five different library branches (I am in the middle of Miami) and I drop in all of them when I am passing by.

    I can log on with my Nokia N80 smartphone and do all kind of things on line. Umm.. Just bought myself iGo Ultra-Slim Bluetooth Keyboard (paid $30 on eBay! compare to about $100 in a store) and looking forward to do even more online things when I am on the go.

    I order all my library books by searching catalogs online and then picking them up at one of my branches. I order a lot from inter-library catalogs from libraries nationwide too.

    Miami library system also has service called Connections: Library Service for the Homebound. It mails free-of-charge books-by-mail for people who are homebound: seniors (make a note for your GrandMa 🙂 and disabled. It is a great service for people who can’t pick up their books. You have to mail them back or ask someone to drop them off.

    We use the Connections for my husband because he is homebound.
    They are awesome. We have great relationship with them going 20 years back so much so that one day they asked us if we wouldn’t mind to recommend them for a Library services award. Long story short, thanks to our glowing recommendations, they WON the National Library Award for Outstanding Services.

    So, if you like your library service, ask them if you can recommend them for a Library award. 🙂

    On a couple of occasions I had to call my library because I was on the road and I couldn’t find a phone number I desperately needed (411 wasn’t of any help) and the Information Desk just looked it up for me on the Internet. Perfect! I don’t know if this is a standard service of they just went out of their way to help. LOL

  22. As a public librarian, I always like when people re-discover, discover and share the library!

    If your library doesn’t have materials or programs you are interested in, ask or look on the web site to see if they take recommendations. If you think the DVD collection is weak, the books are old, they don’t have enough copies of the latest and greatest, the programming is only geared for kids or it is too noisy, let your voice be heard 🙂

  23. auntie_green says

    wow, the libraries in Orange County, CA really aren’t that good. Other than the one in Newport Beach, everyone I know says they pretty much stink, and we should work to change it. Maybe I should organize a fundraiser or something

    Anyone try house swapping for vacation? ie that movie “The Holiday” with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz?

  24. Expatsaver says

    I just finished up my PADI scuba diver certification in Boracay, the Phillipines. It was great and I’m sure you will enjoy it too! Keep up the great work with your goals.

  25. Interesting what you do at the library. You can also save money (obviously) by flipping through the magazines instead of having a yearly subscription or renting their DVDs. I usually look through “Consumer Reports” while I’m there.

    I’m surprised you practice a foreign language while jogging. The last thing I can do while I’m running is focus on learning something.

  26. This is a good idea, but I hate borrowing for the library because I never return them on time.

    But I may just have to since I buy way too many books from Amazon.com.

  27. To H
    Nothing new? I just searched the San Francisco catalog for books published between 2000-2008 and it came up with 32,000 items. There are some variations (at least one was on microfilm) and some of these are the paperback and hardcover, the 2002 and 2007 editions, etc. You may have to reserve and wait (this is free after all and shared by everyone). You can reserve online. If they don’t have the material you want, there is also a link to suggest a book.
    To Michael My publiic library (Pennsylvania) has Consumer Reports online in the databases

  28. Miami’s Library system is also nice for the fact that you can renew online too…

  29. Jonathan,

    Sounds great, my only suggestion is to go with NAUI over PADI. As an experienced diver with certificatons from PADI, NAUI, and SSI, I can say hands down that NAUI tends to have better instructors. The organization itself is much more focused on safe, recreational diving, where PADI has a focus on more extreme divers. This is reflected in the enhanced ease of use as well as the more conservative nature of the NAUI dive tables.


  30. When I was in my 20s, I stopped using the library completely. I didn’t need it at that point in my life. However, I nevertheless always voted for the levies because I still recognized that it was useful to other people and of value to the community as a whole. Sometimes libraries panic when they see certain age groups dropping out, but that doesn’t mean we’re turning against them and eventually we will come back.

  31. Funny I’m reading this. I did the same thing two days ago.

    I have a couple of personal goals – I went to the library to find a few information that I needed to know in order to complete them. I found them very quickly with the awesome librarian’s assistance. I would have never found this amount of information without the help.

  32. Even if you don’t return materials on time, most libraries are much more forgiving than the rental places used to be. IF I forget to renew material (which is pretty easy by either phone or online), My library system only charges $0.10 a day for books, videos, or DVDs.

  33. First comment on your site, just want to say that I read it often and LOVE the info. Definitely going to try the foreclosure auction

    My girlfriend and I got Open Water certified a few months ago. We live in Florida, and along with a few local dives, we recently went to the Bahamas. Anyone with an adventurous attitude should invest in a diving certification. It’s simply amazing.

    If anyone’s interested, pics here, 65 feet below!

    and a great 10-sec shark video I took at the bottom of her blog:

  34. Make sure to find out all the resources your library offers. Usually the reference librarians are the most knowledgeable about it all. Texas for example has a huge online offering of things through “Texshare,” it includes access to NetLibrary (online books, you usuallly have to pay) for everyone, a database of magazine articles (archives you usually have to pay for), and other things. Then, my local library offers even more things online, like a subscription to a legal forms site you can use, a subscription to our city’s newspaper and archives (normally archives cost), and Rosetta Stone software for Spanish. Also, you can sign up for a card that allows you to go to most libraries within the state and check things out from them, which is useful since I live in a suburban city, with lots of other municipalities around me.

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