TOWSON, Md. — Many families are tightening their budgets, which sometimes means forgoing subscriptions and cutting entertainment expenses.
However, people can still stream movies and TV shows for free or read username and password protected newspapers for free, if they know where to look.
Jill McFadden used to take her kids to the library to pick up books, now she’s accessing the online library to save herself the trip and a little money.
“It’s really great to be able to have so many things at hand 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 can get them for free,” McFadden said.
Baltimore County Public Library Director Sonia Alcantara-Antoine explained that there are many more families who can consult with a library card than there are books.
“Yes, we still have books. We will always have books. But we are now beyond the books and the way people access information. We tracked that, so through the public library you can download materials to your computer, cellphone or mobile device, you can also stream,” Alcantara-Antoine said.
It’s handy for people who want to read a newspaper article online but run into a paywall, or want to watch movies and TV shows but have given up the cost of cable.
There’s no need to share passwords and usernames, because your very 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 so on, and so on, it could really add up very quickly. So the beauty of the public library card is that you can access similar content, or some of the same content, but all for free at your public library,” Alcantara-Antoine said.
The pandemic has changed the way people go to work and go to school.
During the pandemic, the library has expanded its digital collection, giving library cardholders free 24/7 access to thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, movies, and books. television broadcasts, as well as newspapers and magazines. All material is accessible 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 straightforward. Then I usually search for audiobooks, and then you download those particular files to your phone or your device, which was also quite intuitive for someone who is not very tech savvy,” said Alcantara-Antoine.
“It’s a great way to save money, especially as gas prices go up, the cost of everything goes up. It’s very expensive to be able to figure out how to entertain your kids or find something fun to do,” Alcantara-Antoine said.
As more and more people return to the library in person or on a family outing, to study or pick up a book, others less familiar with what else to do there might find that 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 of libraries, so come back, take a look, see what we have to offer, you’ll be surprised,” Alcantara-Antoine said.
As with hard copies of books, there are a limited number of eBooks or audiobooks that can be viewed online at one time.
However, unlike hard copies of books, there is no need to worry about returning them as they expire on maturity.
Obtaining 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 is advisable to apply in person to have full access to all that the library has to offer. Applicants will need to complete an application, show proof that you live, work, or attend school in Maryland.