You might think that libraries are old-fashioned or irrelevant in the internet age. You would be wrong.

Modern libraries offer books, sure, but they also provide internet access for people who can’t afford it, as well as a host of excellent digital resources. Many libraries offer e-books, audiobooks, streaming videos, and even access to paywalled newspapers.

All of these services are free to you, regardless of your income level, if you have a library card. Here are five digital services your local library could offer. You might be surprised.

Download Free eBooks and Audiobooks

I know it’s weird, but I prefer ebooks to paper books. They’re portable, I can set the font size, and each book is in the same form factor. So I was delighted to learn that my local library offers ebooks – and chances are yours does too.

The best way to find out if your library offers eBooks or audiobooks is to check your local library’s website or ask a librarian. You can also check online, depending on which service your local library users use, to offer eBooks and audiobooks. Rakuten Overdrive is a popular choice; you can check if your library uses Overdrive here. Another such service is hoopla, and you can check this card to see if a library near you offers the service.

These are just two services: there are others, and we cannot cover them all. Ask your local librarian about ebooks; they will be happy to help you. You’ll need a library card to sign up for these services, but once you’ve done this you can borrow books from home – no library visit required.

Stream free movies and TV shows

Libraries have been offering movies for a long time, but some libraries go beyond just checking out DVDs and offering free access to video streaming.

Kanopy is a streaming site offered by libraries in the United States, providing access to documentaries and films from the Criterion Collection. It’s not a Netflix replacement, but it’s a great addition. Check if your library offers access to Kanopy, or ask a librarian.

Kanopy isn’t the only streaming service your library might offer. hoopla, which we mentioned above, offers movies and TV shows in addition to ebooks. And there are even more streaming services. Again, check your local library’s website or ask a librarian for more information.

Free access to online journals and other resources

Good journalism is worth paying for, but not everyone can afford it. Your local library might offer some middle ground, paying for subscriptions so everyone has access.

My local library, for example, offers free access to the New York Times website. When I visit the library, the paywall does not apply, and I can request a three-day subscription whenever I want to use it outside the library. Several major library systems offer this, including Los Angeles, but we couldn’t find a definitive list. Check your local library’s website or ask a librarian if they offer newspaper subscriptions.

And it’s not just newspapers. Some libraries, especially university libraries, provide access to online research resources like Lexus Nexus. It’s worth looking into, and many people never think about it.

Access free online courses

Several sites on the web offer access to online courses, but the best ones require a subscription. Your local library may already be paying these fees, which means you can access these lessons for free.

For example, your library may offer free online courses on There is no list of libraries that offer this feature, so check your local library’s website or ask a librarian for more information.

Borrow Blu-Rays, DVDs and CDs

It’s not an online service, but it’s something that’s easy to overlook. Your local library probably carries DVDs, Blu-Rays, and CDs in addition to books. The newest and greatest films are usually already checked out, but browsing the rest of a collection can feel comforting like blockbusters and CD stores of yore, except it’s all free to borrow. There are usually even audiobook collections if you don’t mind dealing with CDs.

I highly recommend checking out the AV section of your local library if you haven’t in a while, as you might be surprised at how extensive it is. Even better: if you can’t find something, you might be able to ask for it at a nearby library.