The movies you rent. The books you buy for $25 and $35 apiece. The video games costing $50 and more. Barney DVDs. They're often at the library, in most cases for free.
The Baltimore County Public Library might be exaggerating when it estimates you can save $2,432 a year by using your library card instead of your VISA card. (It figures adults spend $450 a year just on books.)
But saving hundreds of dollars is within reach for many families.
You could buy the Kung Fu Panda DVD for $20 at the store or online. But why, when you can rent it from the Baltimore County library for $2.50? The Baltimore County system has 76 Kung Fu Panda copies among its branches. You get to keep the movie for two days.
Libraries are trying harder than ever to be "customer-focused." A side effect is that they often have glaring gaps among the classics. (Don't try borrowing Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent from the Howard County system. The Anne Arundel County Public Library has Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana only on audiocassette. And so forth.)
But it also means they are often good about stocking best-sellers and new releases. The Howard County system already has copies of Working on a Dream, the Bruce Springsteen album released last month, and Slumdog Millionaire, the Academy Award-nominated film, and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell's new book.
There's often a wait for such popular items. But you can reserve them. And the price is right.
Note: In-story commenting has been temporarily disabled due to technical issues. We are working to correct the issue and will bring back this feature in the future. In the meantime, please use our talk forums to discuss stories.