Friday, October 14, 2016

Library Halloween: Costumes for the Last-Minute Librarian

Halloween, how do we love thee? Of course, when you're programming, weeding, ordering, organizing, doing statistics, and everything else in our daily lives, holidays can sneak up on you. In the interest of making this holiday fun without adding any extra stress, we present a variety of inexpensive, book-themed costume choices for the Last Minute Librarian, some of which cost no money at all!

Zombie Librarian

It's our very own Kat!
Zombie Librarian (or, a zombie version of whatever random costume you have) - you need some face paint, fake blood, and talcum powder. Wear your already-ripped-and-stained librarian clothes, add some dirt and/or fake blood, and put talcum powder in your hair. There's a quick makeup tutorial here, which Kat wrote while working at the Lawrence Library in Pepperell, MA. (Note: Be careful wearing this one in the kids' room! It can be a little scary for little guys.)

Cat in the Hat

via thedomesticdiva
Cat in the Hat - you need a black sweatsuit, a floppy hat, and a long piece of felt that you can tie into a bow tie. Add white or blue gloves and a little facepaint for a black nose and whiskers, and you're all set! 

Where's Waldo?

via Buzzfeed
Where's Waldo - Waldo is easy as pie! You'll need a red and white striped shirt and hat, blue jeans, and glasses. Adding his accessories (binoculars, a cane, a camera, etc.) can be fun, and you might already have them! Waldo's girlfriend Wenda is similar - instead of jeans, you'll want a jean skirt and red and white striped stockings.

Junie B. Jones

This one is from a school's Read Across America day!
Junie B. Jones - Much like Fancy Nancy, all you have to do here is wear a lot of loud patterns and colors at once, and tie a big, floppy bow on your head. Glasses are helpful but not mandatory. Sassy attitude is mandatory.

Fancy Nancy

It's Kat, again.
Fancy Nancy - This one is super easy. Put all your fancy clothes on at once! Bonus points for feather boas, fancy sunglasses, and any thing with lace, sparkles, or rhinestones.

Ms. Frizzle

via Twigsofthebranches
Ms. Frizzle - Everyone's favorite teacher. This one is especially fun because you can pick any topic there is, and Ms. Frizzle has probably taught about it. Cut out some felt shapes and stick them to an existing dress (and shoes), and put some in your hair. Special kudos for adding Liz the lizard.

If You Give A Mouse a Cookie

via ECYD
If You Give a Mouse A Cookie - overalls, a gray shirt, and a big, paper cookie! Mouse ears (which appear homemade here, and look fabulous) and a pink mouse nose with black whiskers complete the look.

I Spy

via tpcraft
I Spy - What a fun idea! Stick some stuff to the front of your shirt, and a list of what's there to the back! I love that the boy in the photos also has a book and a magnifying glass.


via eastcoastmommy
Olaf - Because everyone has been Elsa by now.

The Paper Bag Princess

via scissorsandthread
The Paper Bag Princess - You could make the dress out of a large paper lawn bag, or a roll of brown butcher paper. The crown would be the same, but painted gold. (Pro tip: If wearing this to work, you'll want to wear something underneath it.)

Lady MacBeth

Lady MacBeth - for the adult librarians out there! Put on a long nightgown, mess up your hair, carry a candle, and have (fake) blood on your hands, face, and nightgown. (If you're feeling adventurous, you could have a dagger, too.) If anyone bothers you, you're allowed to tell them, "Out! Out!"

Superman/Clark Kent

via - this was a ComicCon cosplay
Superman/Clark Kent - for the gentlemen out there. Wear your usual button-down white shirt, but have a Superman t-shirt underneath. You can either show it to people when they ask where your costume is, or keep it partially unbuttoned with your tie thrown over your shoulder to show that you're transitioning between the two. (Glasses a must for Clark Kent.)

Of course, we'd love to see what other ideas you come up with! Please let us know (and show us pictures!) in the comments here, on our Facebook page or on Twitter.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Get Out of Email Hell: 4 Week Challenge

What is email hell?
  • It is when you spend a lot of your time writing emails.
  • It is when you can't find an attachment that someone sent.
  • It is missing important information or forgetting to respond to emails.
  • It is opening your email and being overwhelmed by how many are sitting in your inbox.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

If you want to make changes and start reclaiming your inbox, join us in the 5minlib Get Out of Email Hell: 4 Week Challenge. It officially starts on Monday, October 17th. We break out the latest techniques for you to easily manage it all.

Because let's be honest. Our digital space is just as important as our physical space. Being organized and having a solid process can only increase your productivity and decrease your stress. Who doesn't want that? Join us on the 17th!

4 Week Challenge: Get Out of Email Hell

Day 1: Monday (Archive Folder)

Create a folder called "Archives" and move everything from your inbox to it. EVERYTHING. Congratulations, you're now at Inbox Zero! Have no worries, we will help you clear our your Archives folder, but it is much easier integrating your new process (which you'll learn over these 4 weeks) with an empty inbox.

Day 2: Tuesday (Follow-Up Folder)

Create a folder called "Follow-Up". This is the place your emails will go that you cannot quickly respond to, but eventually need to. Comb through your "Archives" folder and your current inbox, and move all appropriate emails over. Schedule on your calendar a day and time you'll carve out to respond to these emails.

Day 3: Wednesday (Block Time for Email)

Turn off email notifications. You don't need to know the instant an email appears in your inbox. Decide on when you will check your email during the day (right when you come in? Lunch? Thirty minutes before you leave for the day?) and plan at least 30 minutes to go through it. (Plan to check it twice a day if once is too little.) Tell your staff to call or visit you if they need a quick response. Too many emails unintentionally left unanswered because we open them when we don't have the time to answer, then we forget to respond. Be conscious of your time and do email on your own terms. Minimize those distractions for greater productivity in general!

Day 4: Thursday (Unsubscribe)

Search your email for the word "unsubscribe". All newsletters and email lists will appear. Unsubscribe from any newsletter that you never make time to read (or perhaps never even intended to sign-up for in the first place). From this point forward, if you get junk email that you do not care for in your inbox, immediately unsubscribe from it.

Day 5: Friday (Clean-Up Inbox)

Apply the above rules to your current inbox. Make sure when you leave today, your inbox is close to zero. Remember:

  • Don't keep an email in your inbox if it requires a task -- move it to the correct folder, and add the task to your To Do List.
  • If you need more time to respond, move it to the "Follow-Up" folder and make sure you schedule in your calendar a reminder to respond.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters you don't want.

Day 6: Monday (Create Important Folders)

Go to your "Follow-Up" folder and carve out some time to clear it out. If conversations are completed, delete or move them to a special folder, any folder that makes sense to you (like "Director", "One Book, One Community" or "School Collaborations", etc.). Try to go generic first and then break it down to smaller folders if you find it is getting too big. Having too many folders can make things get complicated. For example, you don't need a folder for every staff member you work with -- you can have a generic "Staff" folder and then separate folders for those you email often ("Director", "Website Team", etc.).

Day 7: Tuesday (To-Do List Tool)

Decide on a To-Do List tool. I use Trello, but there are many apps you can use (Here's a great list) or even a paper calendar. From now on, when an email comes in that you need to do something for, move it out of inbox (delete or archive it into the appropriate folder) and mark it on your To-Do List. Make a note in your list where you saved the email for future reference.

Day 8: Thursday (Read Later Folder/Folders)

Go to your Archives folder and sort it by sender. Pay attention to the emails from organizations. After Day 4's purge, all that should be left are your favorite organizations (Maybe new book news, or Goodreads updates, or publisher emails). Make a filter/rule for them and have them skip the inbox, going directly into a "Read Later" folder. Then schedule in your calendar a weekly day/time when you will read that folder, especially if it is for professional development. (Alternately, you could roll all of these newsletters into one email using the program Unroll.Me if you use something like Gmail. It doesn't work for every email, though, like Outlook.)

Day 9: Thursday (Schedule Follow-Ups)

Are you keeping emails in your inbox because you are waiting for a response? Move them to the right folder and then set a day/time in your calendar to follow up. (Or, if you are using Gmail, you can download Boomerang, which will email you a reminder if no one responds within a set amount of time. You can also schedule emails to go out at a later date/time, which could come in handy.)

Day 10: Friday (Clean-Up Inbox)

Apply the above rules to your current inbox. Make sure when you leave today, your inbox is close to zero. Remember:

  • Don't keep an email in your inbox if it requires a task -- move it to the correct folder, and add the task to your calendar/To Do List.
  • If you need more time to respond, move it to the "Follow-Up" folder and make sure you schedule in your calendar a reminder to respond.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters you don't want.
  • Create filters/rules to move unessential email to a "Read Later" folder.

Day 11: Monday (Digest Mode)

Make sure all of your Electronic Discussion Lists are set to digest mode, not individual emails. You'll get one email at the end of the day that groups together all correspondence. (If you are not on any electronic discussion lists, definitely check out ALA's Lists to get started!) Note: I used to have these redirected to a folder, but ended up never checking it. Now, I leave them in my inbox with a mental deadline -- they are deleted/archived by Friday, whether I read them or not.

Day 12: Tuesday (Create Rules to Immediately Filter the Unimportant)

Create a filter/rule to direct unimportant email (like order confirmations and deliveries from places like Amazon) directly into folders, skipping your inbox all together. You don't need to divert brainpower to those emails and you can easily access those folders on the rare occasion that there is a problem (i.e., can't find something that should have shipped). TIP: If you have to forward these emails to your administrative person, see if they can be added to the account directly, so they can get the email notification when you do.

Day 13: Wednesday (Make Templates)

Look through your sent email to see if there are any questions that you receive frequently. Select one of them and write a generic response template. (Perhaps you get a lot of questions about volunteering at the library or someone is interested in learning more about one of your monthly programs, etc.) Save this response so the next time you receive an email, you can quickly pop this in and hit send. (I actually save this in my drafts but you don't have to.) From this point forward, whenever you get a common question, make sure you save your response.

Day 14: Thursday (Touch It Once Principle)

Adopt the "Touch It Once" Principle. Since you have now scheduled when you will focus on email, you can focus on using your time efficiently when you're in your email. This philosophy means that when you open an email, you finish all tasks needed to then file/delete that email. No emails hanging overhead, no forgotten responses. And, best of all, you'll be saving all of that time you would have used rereading or avoiding the email.

Day 15: Friday (Clean-Up Inbox)

Apply the above rules to your current inbox. Make sure when you leave today, your inbox is close to zero. Remember:

  • Don't keep an email in your inbox if it requires a task -- move it to the correct folder, and add the task to your calendar/To Do List.
  • If you need more time to respond, move it to the "Follow-Up" folder and make sure you schedule in your calendar a reminder to respond.
  • Unsubscribe from newsletters you don't want.
  • Create filters/rules to move unessential email to a "Read Later" folder.

Day 16: Monday (Invoices and Bills)

Make a plan for dealing with invoices and bills. Email may not be the best place to store them, especially if you have to process them later. You can use IFTTT to automatically send them to Dropbox or Evernote, which is much easier to find documents than email. If you need to follow-up, move them into your follow-up folder or To Do List.

Day 17: Tuesday (Email has Limitations)

Understand email's limitations. It isn't great for sensitive subjects, conflict resolution, or any topic that requires a lot of back and forth. Use email instead to plan a meeting (face to face if possible, or just over the phone). No matter how nicely worded an email is, miscommunication is bound to happen. You can avoid many problems just by talking it through, watching for verbal, facial, and body cues, and saving yourself many emails in the process.

Day 18: Wednesday (Be Direct)

Make your emails short and to the point. Start off with your main point and then support it afterwards. Try also to think ahead and avoid future emails. If you are looking for a meeting day/time, give your schedule for next week (don't make them play email tag to find the best time). Use bullets to clearly make your points, and follow-up with a phone call if it is important. Most importantly, make sure your signature ALWAYS provides your phone number and address.

Day 19: Thursday (Find More Efficient Tools)

Are there ways you are using email that could be done more efficiently elsewhere? Perhaps it is better to create a Google Form for common questions, so you can get all the information you need without having to email back and forth multiple times. Or perhaps you are trying to setup a meeting with a group of people and can use using something like Doodle to make it easier and involve less emails.

Day 20: Friday (Share Challenge with Someone)


You have completed our 30 Day Email Challenge. Reflect on the past tasks and see what worked well for you, what didn't. Make changes as you see fit and schedule a time each week or month for you to "clean out" your inbox so that you can remain on top of it!

Today's task is a call to action. If you participated in our email challenge, please let us know in the comments below, or tell us on Facebook/Twitter. If you found it useful, pass this challenge along to someone else and/or tweet about it on Twitter with the hashtag #5minlibEmailChallenge. 

Let's save each other from Email Hell. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

New Facebook Groups for Librarians!

Last year, we wrote a post highlighting all of the Facebook Groups that are for Public Librarians. We recently updated the list and wanted to highlight below our new additions! Some of these groups are new and some we recently found! A few have been added since our original posting, so we included them below in cased you missed them.

Happy Facebooking!

A place to ask for collection development suggestions and support.
413 members

A lab for digital librarian developers—a place where new tech products and services for libraries and communities, media and publishing, are created and innovated—and a space for discussion. This is also our informal pool of librarian developer contractors we will go to when we need to hire for short-term, freelance, contract work. Thanks for allowing us to add you :)
269 members

Welcome to Flannel Friday's Facebook page! FF is a non-profit* international group of librarians and educators working together to share quality beyond-the-book experiences for children.
2,652 members

This is a place where you can post anything related to the libraries' resource sharing activities.
673 members

The Intellectual Freedom Fighters (IFF) want to get Intellectual Freedom issues on the minds, hearts, and tongues of the wider library community. We want to inform you about these issues and provoke tough conversations. We intend to create change in the wider library world. The IFF is an outgrowth of the ever-vigilant ALA Intellectual Freedom Round Table (IFRT), which has been protecting your freedoms since 1973. [...] The IFF Group is here to get the whole library community thinking about Intellectual Freedom questions. We all face difficult issues and scary situations sometime, let's face them together. Comments are eagerly solicited, although uncivil or off topic posts may be deleted.
New Group! 58 members

NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH LIBERTARIAN MEMES This is a group for sharing all your library, school, and learning memes! Invite your friends!
2,188 members

A group for libraries and librarians to share information related to holding conventions and festivals of all kinds, from book fairs to comic cons.
313 members

Library Communications Conference Group - join in the conversation about issues related to library outreach and communications. The Library Communications Conference connects marketing, public relations, special events, fundraising, outreach, and program development professionals for public and academic libraries.
590 members

This group is for topics related to library management- supervising, programming, budgets, advocacy, outreach, etc. Feel free to ask for advice, start a conversation, or rant. Though this is intended to be a safe environment, please be careful when discussing sensitive personnel matters. No sales pitches, advertising, bullying, harassment, or any other obnoxious behaviors will be tolerated.
1,260 members

Support for libraries who are experimenting with Pokémon GO programming and outreach. What to share here: your program ideas, your publicity samples, your event photos, news and commentary, funny memes appropriate for use on social media, research and analysis, trends you notice,and anything else you think might be helpful.
946 members

Our mission is to kick ass and save the day, library-style. We're a centralized location for collecting and disseminating information about urgent political or natural disasters' effects on libraries and library services.
524 members

Music Librarians

For music librarians!
453 members

Welcome to the REFORMA Think Tank. REFORMA is the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking. In this space, librarians, community members, and activists who serve the Latino and Spanish speaking communities in the United States and beyond will be able to share ideas, recommendations, and benchmarks to support each other in providing better services to our communities.
556 members

Solo librarians (and librarians who work in small libraries) can come here to share ideas and engage in discussion. Librarians in any sort of institution (public, academic, school, corporate) are welcome!
319 members

For librarians with tattoos!
1,320 members

A group to talk about zine librarianship! How to build a collection, how to catalogue zines, how to organize zine events, and more! All zine librarians and archivists are welcome: academic, digital, DIY, public, school, volunteer, etc.
263 members

For more groups and to see the complete list of Facebook for Librarians, please visit our original post:

Friday, September 23, 2016

5 Hot Places to Find Free Professional Development

There is nothing like the feeling when you attend a professional development session that opens your eyes to something new and exciting. Even better if it is something new that you can apply back in your library. In our humble opinion, there is no better way to stay motivated on the job than constantly learning something new. But when to find the time to learn something new? Conferences can get expensive and the timing could conflict with your availability schedule.

Have no fear! There are many online options which you can do on your own time! Here are a few of our favorite places to go for Professional Development!

1.Wyoming State Library Training Calendar   

We have to give props to Wyoming State Library. They collect all online training and share it in a very convenient calendar. Find something you want to learn about but you can't attend the session? Most say to sign up anyway and they'll email you a link to the archived video.

2. Webjunction

If Wyoming's calendar is overwhelming to you, Webjunction is the place to visit. They take these events and divide them by category. They also provide FREE self paced courses and webinars (upcoming and archived past videos) to all library workers and volunteers.

3. Language Classes

If you have patrons that speak a language you don't know, it may be helpful to use your library's language programs (Mango or Transparent tend to be the most popular). If the library you work in doesn't have these programs, check your home town library or your state library. The language programs may also have quick guides to help library professionals, like Transparent's Survival Spanish for Librarians.

4. Free Online Courses

There are many other fee online courses if you start look by subject instead of profession. What do you want to learn more about? Google Analytics? Social Media Tips? Photography? There are free courses for them all!

45 free online classes you can take (and finish) by the end of this year
Genealogy webinars and courses (free and fee-based)
Free credit-eligible courses for in-demand jobs (free 10 day trial, though many libraries also offer this program)

5. Conference Materials from State and Small Conferences

There are many reasons why you may not be able to attend conferences, but that doesn't mean you can't benefit from them! Many of them (especially state and smaller conferences) will share their presentations and handouts online, freely available to anyone. Check them out after their conference ends! Some examples:

Massachusetts Library Association
Missouri Library Association (Google Drive Folder)
Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy
Texas Library Association

So, there are endless places to learn. The question now is what time are you going to carve out of your calendar to learn something new?

Friday, September 16, 2016

Ready to Go Book Display: Haunted Houses

Welcome to our series, "Ready to Go!" Book Display. Once a month we'll highlight the latest or greatest for every age group (Adults, Teens, and Children) that you can promote within your library or order for your collection.


The Stopped Heart by Julie Myerson (Mar 2016)
Seeking a new life in the countryside, Mary and her husband move into a long abandoned house, but when unusual sights and sounds begin to occur Mary starts questioning if her grief has turned into madness.

The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike (Oct 2016)
After moving to a new apartment complex next to a cemetery, a young Japanese family  experiences strange and terrifying occurrences that send the other residents fleeing their homes, ultimately leaving them alone with a dark, evil something, or someone, residing in the basement.

77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz (Dec 2011)
The affluent occupants of luxury apartments, house in a 200-year-old mansion with a checkered past, enter into a terrifying waking nightmare when the haunted house reawakens, leaving no one  safe from its grip.

While renovating a run-down Pacific Heights mansion, contractor Melanie Turner is visited by the ghost of a colleague who needs her help in solving his murder so he can pass over to the other side. 

Rooms by Lauren Oliver (Sept 2014)
Wealthy Richard Walker has just died, leaving behind his country house full of rooms packed with the detritus of a lifetime. His estranged family - bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled teenage son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna - have arrived for their inheritance. But the Walkers are not alone.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein (Sept 2014)
When a boy tries to save his parents' marriage, he uncovers a legacy of family secrets.


The House by Christina Lauren (Oct 2015)
Told in their separate voices, Gavin, a loner outcast, and Delilah, back in small-town Kansas after years at a Massachusetts boarding school, reconnect their senior year, but as their relationship deepens, it is clear that the eerie house Gavin dwells in will do anything to keep the two apart.

Harmony House by Nic Sheff (Mar 2016)
Relocating with her mentally ill father to the HJersey Shore in the aftermath of her alcoholic mother's death, Jen learns the creepy history of the manor house that becomes her new home and experiences strange visions that compel her to escape a past she didn't know was haunting her, and the mysterious, terrible power she didn't realize she had.

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto (Aug 2014)
After her mother's sudden death, Chloe's childhood ability to see ghosts returns and she encounters the spirit of a man 157 years dead whose ghostly past love will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who threatens to take him away.

The House on Stone's Throw Island by Dan Poblocki (Aug 2015)
Jose Sandoval and Eli Barker are the youngest of the wedding guests trapped on a an island off the coast of Maine when a storm blows in - but this island is haunted by spirits seeking revenge, and the only clue that JOsie and Eli have is a scrap of an old Nazi uniform and a voice crying out for help in German.

Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton (July 2015)
When Jack enters the deserted house in his neighborhood, he finds a group of people who invite him to take the thirteenth chair in the room and share a story - in the house where the ghosts meet.

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender (Aug 2015)
Murdered by a spirit in her house, which was previously an insane asylim, sixteen-year-old Cordelia wanders the house, meeting other trapped ghosts and learning the house's dark secrets, searching for a way to save her family and perhaps herself.

Amity by Micol Ostow (Aug 2014)
Two teens narrate the terrifing days and nights they spend living in a house of horros.

And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich (Sept 2016)
Sisters Silla, seventeen, and Nori, four, are trapped in their aunt's cursed manor and can only escape with the help of a mysterious boy.


Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (Sept 2016)
Catrina and her family have moved to the coast of Northern California for the sake of her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis - and Cat is even less happy about the move when she is told that her new home is haunted, and Maya sets her heart on meeting a ghost.

Shadow House: The Gathering by Dan Poblocki (Aug 2016)
A house with an eerie past lures in and traps five children who must uncover clues to the house's history in order to escape.

A little boy explores his house to learn the scientific reasons why his house makes spooky sounds.

At the Old Haunted House by Helen Ketteman (Aug 2014)
While trick-or-treating at the old haunted house on the hill, three children discover the many creatures that call it home, including goblins, vampires, and ghosts.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Downloadable Entertainment

You've gotten home on Friday night, ready for a nice, relaxing weekend, when all of a sudden, it hits you: you finished your book and you don't have another one! What's a librarian to do?! Luckily, you don't have to suffer a weekend of boredom as long as you have a reliable internet connection. No, we don't mean surfing the web. We mean Downloadable Entertainment from your library!

Of course, not all of these services are available at all locations, but if your local library doesn't offer it, take a peek at what your county or state capital library has. I don't know about every state, but I do know that, in many places, you can often get a free e-card and use it to access online amenities from home.





Ah, yes, the OverDrive Media Console. In many cases, this was a librarian's first look at ebooks, but things have changed a bit over the years. In case you're unfamiliar, OverDrive is a library-funded service that lets you download ebooks, periodicals, and audio books, and stream video to your computer, smartphone, or tablet.

  • Smartphone, tablet, and computer apps (available for iOS, Android, Chromebook, Mac OS, Windows, and Windows phone) for easy downloading. Seriously, I've gotten so good at this that I can find and start downloading an audio book for my commute while I'm brushing my teeth.
  • The app is also super searchable and browsable - you can limit by genre, reading level, language, and also limit to what's currently available.
  • A very friendly website. Plug in what you like, and it will help you find books and videos that you're interested in. It also gives recommendations based on what you've read or looked at before. (The website also has a detailed "Help" section, with videos.)
  • Integration: Did you know that you can actually connect your Facebook account and your GoodReads account with your OverDrive account? It will link together all the libraries for which you have a card (for me, this is the library in which I work; the library in the town where I live; and the state library), and you can see all the items that are available at each location, and all the devices in which your account has been used.
  • You can now suspend your holds! This is a big, big plus for people who either have several books checked out (sometimes everything comes in all at once and you know that you can't finish them all within two weeks), or you might be unavailable during a certain time period. Don't lose your place in line, but don't lose your chance to read the book if it comes too soon, either!
  • You can renew select titles! If nobody is in line for a book, OverDrive will let you renew a title (if it's not available, it will put the book on hold for you). When you renew/re-download a title that you've had before, guess what - it picks up right where you left off! Bookmarks and last page read remain unaffected. 
  • OverDrive will send you an email and let you know when a book you have on hold is ready for you. Of course, this is only helpful if you check your email. OR! You can have OverDrive automatically check the book out when it's your turn! Bonus - as long as you can get the book read in your two-week window.
  • Download it, or stream it online. This works for both audio books and video content. You can use your computer, or a tablet or smartphone (Apple iOS or Android, only).
  • Sometimes that book that you're dying to read has a waiting list, and because everyone with a library card has as much right to read it as you do (in your whole network, no less), there can sometimes be quite a wait. (But it'll email you when it's your turn, which is nice.) 
  •  A finite number of titles you can have at any one time. This isn't really too much of a con, though, because even in the small network in which I work, you can get 3 titles at a time, and as soon as you return one, you can get another. (I usually have an audio book, an ebook, and a backup for whichever of those I'm closest to finishing. But, again, some people have multiple library cards, which means even higher limits.)
  • Not that this comes up much anymore, but... Downloading to non-tablet devices can be a pain. So you want to read that book on your Nook ereader? You first have to download Adobe Digital Editions to your computer, then download the book, then plug in the device to the computer and upload the book into the ereader. It's not that hard to do, but it's very hard to explain to someone who just got a device for the first time and isn't really tech-savvy. (That said, the troubleshooting section of the website is excellent.)







Hoopla is your best friend when you want streaming videos but don't want to pay for cable or subscribe to a service. They have audio books, movies, television shows, comics, music, and ebooks. You create an account with your library card, but then log in using your email and password. Borrowers can enjoy several free titles a month (the number varies depending on your library's subscription, but is often around 8 titles per patron per month). Simply stream online or download to your device.
  • Free! No strings attached!
  • Nothing to download, if you don't want to. If storage is at a premium, you're in luck: you can stream this media, so it won't take up space on your device. If you want to download and take it on the go, you can do that, too - simply download the app.
  • New, popular items. No, really! They update their catalog weekly.
  • No waiting! Seriously. You can get the Hamilton soundtrack, or The Girl on the Train without having to worry about digital rights and the fact that there's only one copy available - thanks to simultaneous usage, everyone who wants it can use it right now.
  • Another easily browsable website, and a great free app for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets.
  • Limited - You only get a finite number of titles a month, and that counts full movies, full audio books, and full music albums (even ones with multiple discs). BUT - each episode of a tv show counts as a single use, so don't dream of marathoning Downton Abbey just yet.
  • Streaming. Streaming is awesome, right? There's nothing to download! Unless you're listening to an audio book and they decide to retire it and rotate the collection. Those books can be many, many hours long. The good news is, you get a full 21 days to listen to them, which is great, if you're in a listening mood! 
  • Also, streaming means that you need a reliable internet connection, or you're going to use a lot of data.









Freegal (the name is a combination of "free" and "legal") is the music service you've been waiting for. All you need to do is log in with your library card and PIN, and you've got access to over 11 million songs and 15,000 music videos. (Some libraries have Freegal's streaming music service, and others only have the downloadable music option - check with your library to see what's available to you.) Freegal works with Sony Music, in order to provide access to some quality artists. Some libraries have even suspended adding to their CD collections, opting instead to subscribe to Freegal. You can download a set number (which varies per library, but usually around 3) songs per week, and you can also stream music (though there is a limited time per week that you can stream - our local library allows 3 hours of streaming per day, which is pretty nice).
  • You can keep the music! Once a song is downloaded, it is yours to listen to, burn to a CD, or add to a player.
  • Yes, there's an app for that. The Freegal app is available on Apple, Android, and even in the Amazon store if you have a Kindle Fire.
  •  No ads! Other live-streaming music services, like Spotify or Pandora, will either require a monthly fee, or sporadically play ads between songs.
  • Limited usage. You can get only a limited number of songs per week. Songs, not albums. Choose wisely. 
  • If you download a music video, that counts as two songs. Be aware.
  • Limited variety. Yes, there is lots to choose from, and there's some really great stuff in there, but you might not find the exact song you're dreaming of.







Do you like magazines? Have we got an app for you!  Zinio (billed as "The world's largest newsstand") is available for libraries, and let me tell you, I really enjoy this one. Each magazine has full-color spreads, which you can read online or download to a tablet.
  • New content and back-issues! Download with a click, and enjoy.
  • Keep your older issues as long as you want them. If you have the storage, you can keep them forever.
  • A wide selection of magazines. Zinio offers titles from Highlights to Forbes, ESPN to Good Housekeeping. My library recently got Zinio with a pre-selected assortment of titles, and I am still amazed at the titles that are offered. Included are big names like National Geographic and Martha Stewart Living, and also niche publications like Golf Digest and Vegetarian Times. There are titles for kids, too! The specific magazines available will depend on your library's subscription.
  • No limits - download as many as you want!
  • Email notifications - get a message as soon as a new issue is out.
  • Fully searchable. Not only can you search for keyword or title, but you can actually search the articles inside each publication. DUDE.
  • Zinio also has a website where you can purchase content, which can be confusing when you're first trying to look through it. (But it's ok - you don't need to spend a dime. Just make sure you login through your library and not

Online Classes

If you're thinking of spending a little more time working on something - and maybe getting a little more out of your time than just temporary entertainment - consider taking an online class. Many libraries have subscriptions to systems such as:
  • Mango Languages - Have you ever wanted to learn a language but you didn't have time or money to take a class, and Rosetta Stone is just way too expensive? Check out Mango Languages. They have 72 languages to choose from, and a great smartphone/tablet app that tracks your progress. There's even a version just for children.
  • Gale Courses - These are 6-week online courses that are taught by industry professionals in a variety of topics, for all ages. From "Introduction to Guitar" to "Project Management Fundamentals," they've got you covered. You even get an Award of Completion when you finish a course, so you can prove that, "yes, I've taken a class on that."
  • - is affiliated with LinkedIn, and has about 1500 courses to choose from, all of which are on-demand (no waiting for the next class session to start). The website will also give you recommended Learning Paths, so that if you're interested in, say, becoming a graphic designer, it will set out which classes will be helpful for you to achieve that goal.  This has a more professional slant than Gale Courses does, and focuses more on skills that will help you in a career, than just ones that you do for fun. Still, though - why wait to learn a new skill?

Still Bored?

We hope not. There are lots of options out there to choose from. Did we forget one of your favorite donwloadable entertainments? Please let us know in the comments here, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.