House Poor Summer Tour: The Public Library

In the spirit of “staycationing” in our new home, I’m writing a new series of posts about ways to save money and live frugally without being extreme or insane. I used these methods to save for my down payment, and I continue to use them to survive being a new, yet thrifty, homeowner.

Let’s embark on the House Poor Summer Tour 2013!


I worked at a public library for two summers during college.

Hands down, it was the best summer job ever. Granted I made minimum wage, so I wasn’t hauling in the big bucks, but it was easy, fun, money. I promoted the summer reading program, helped patrons with computers, and performed the typical public library activities- checking out books, collecting fines, mailing out overdue notices, shelf stocking, all that good stuff.

Here I am with my library coworkers, Wanda and Patricia, back in 2006. This picture officially qualifies this blog as a “Throwback Thursday” now, right?

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The best thing about working at the public library? My hours were from 10-6, and every day, I walked over to Subway and a local convenience store for lunch and snacks. The workers knew me and my order as soon as I walked in. Sometimes I surprised the workers, when my minimum-wage making, thrifty self upgraded to a chips-and-drink combo instead of “just the sandwich”. “The sandwich” was a veggie delight with all veggies, add spinach, melted cheese, on honey oat bread. I still get this combo when I go to Subway.

The next best thing about working at the public library was seeing new books come in and getting first access to whatever I wanted. It was a small branch library, but seeing what people read and what movies they watched was fun. I even considered going into the library science field as a career, but it requires three years of grad school after college.

Not that writers make a ton, but with student loans and the low pay rate, librarians are justified in sticking with “just the sandwich” at Subway.

Recently, I spent an afternoon on my front porch swing reading this and sipping on this. The milkshake was free with a coupon I received in the mail- double score for us bargain hunters.

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One of the first thing I did when I moved to Charleston was sign up for a library card. Not only has this saved me money from buying books I’ll only read once (or may not or even finish), it’s also kept me from accumulating more stuff to move. Not that we plan to move anytime soon, but if we must, I won’t have quite as many books. You can also order books from your public library- this is called “inter library loan”- so if they don’t have what you’re looking for, just ask. Librarians are there to help.

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Another big library advantage- movies. Netflix and hulu are great but don’t always have everything, and you’re luck to find a Blockbuster– ours here in West Ashley recently went out of business. Even then, Blockbuster costs- and we’re house poor. You can get many of those movies at the public library completely free, and if you think the only movies at the library are documentaries and scholarly films, think again. Ours has recent movies as well as some out-of-production ones.

If you have kids or have to take care of kids during the summer, check out the summer reading programs. Even the small town library I worked at had weekly programs for children- it’s a great way to get out of the house without spending money, beat the heat, and break up the day. The Charleston County Public Library even has a summer reading program for adults. Working adults have to miss out on the puppet shows and magic acts, but we can enter for a chance to win gift cards for each book we read over the summer. Hey, you never know unless you try!

So, on the hot steamy days of summer, check out your local library for some inexpensive fun. Free reading while laying out is always good!

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21 Responses to House Poor Summer Tour: The Public Library

  1. I really need a membership at a library! I’m not going to be in my hometown again until Christmas, though, so I’ll have to find some other library wherever I end up haha.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      You can do that! Our library would do a membership from someone from out of town, you had to pay for it but it was very nominal (like: less than the cost of one book at a bookstore). Also you can use the computers and resources at any library without a card, minus checking out books. We had lots of military come in to use the computers and things like that who didn’t have cards/memberships.

  2. KrisLawrence says:

    We’ve been going to the library once a week for the past few months. I used to buy so many books on Amazon…such a waste. I would read it then donate the book because I hate clutter and already own enough books. Plus our library is fantastic for kids programs. They just had snakes and bugs in for kids to touch last week.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I loved the programs like that. We had a snake program at my library when I worked there and there’s a picture of me out there somewhere with the snake. It’s pretty freaky and I wish I could find the pic now! I have no clue where it is but I didn’t have a digital camera then, so it’s probably somewhere at my parents’ house. I did love working there with the kids programs- I wish it hadn’t required so much education for such little pay or I would’ve considered it as a career, honestly.

  3. jeksca says:

    I LOVE the library. I am a big reader. I can seriously put away 3 books per week. Buying that many books would be ridiculous. I check out around 3 books per week, even though I may not get to all three each week. I also check out movies and take full advantage of the hold system. I am currently waiting on Mad Men Season 5. I could go on forever about my love of the library. I am also a bargain junkie so I am with you there.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I love the hold system! When I find books I want to read, I immediately put them on hold, and the library emails me when they’re ready to pick up… so I just go in and grab ’em. I like to browse as well sometimes, but putting them on hold and having them waiting for me at the desk is pretty awesome and time saving. Usually the library has them in 2 days which is the same amount of time it would take Amazon prime to ship too.

  4. You are so right about the library and how it definitely saves money by going there rather than buying books. I miss those two ladies from the library. How have they been?

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I haven’t seen them in a few years but I keep up with Patricia on Facebook and she’s doing pretty well, it seems like. I actually have not been “home” since Christmas 2012.

  5. mikefeimster says:

    Interesting. Curious though, why do you need a master’s degree to be a librarian?

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I honestly don’t know why, but every job listing I looked at when in college required one. Even those library jobs that don’t require them seem to hire individuals who have an MLS (Master’s in Library Science) just because there are more people who have that degree than positions open in libraries right now.

      I know quite a few librarians who don’t have advanced degrees, but most of them have been librarians or working at the library for years, so their experience makes up for it, I guess. I think the degree mostly just applies for new hires.

  6. Lauren says:

    I definitely haven’t been to my local library in forever, but I do go to used books stores a lot now! Actually, I’ve been donating books in order to keep things from accumulating in our house! It’s nice because you get some money towards new books AND you’re donating to a store which makes books more affordable to those who can’t afford them at regular price! It just makes me feel good supporting a local business 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I also like used books! Half.com is a great site for them, too. I bought lots of textbooks there when I was in college, but I still go there to buy books now.

      And yes, I still occasionally purchase books even though I love the library, sometimes you just want to own a book, especially if you know you’ll need to refer to it a lot or it’s for work, hobby, etc.

      Donating in general is awesome… you help others and it’s great to de-clutter!

  7. I absolutely love the library. I could spend hours in there if I had more free time. If you have a library card you can also check out books electronically which is super convenient.

  8. I absolutely LOVE the library! I wish I could get free books on my nook though

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Sometimes amazon has free downloads depending on the book. I’ve seen a couple on the couponing/deal blogs I follow. It’s usually cookbooks and things like that, more than fiction books. I’ll have to let you know the next time I see them…

  9. Hey Amy! I’m really liking your series about staycationing. I’ve been learning a lot about making the most of having little finances and just learning to bloom where I’m planted. Ahhh, I remember when you did work at the library. Kiwibox days! 😀

    I remember reading about the children who showed up for the reading programs, and I do remember your “frequent flyer” days for Subway… in fact, if I recall correctly, wasn’t there one time when the employee asked you what kind of meat you wanted on your veggie delight… by mistake? I think I remember you talking about that. 🙂

    And it looks like you had fun at Clay’s class reunion the other day… I liked your list of what happened in 2003. That was a cool idea! I’ll have to look into something like that sometime.

    Have a good evening!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Haha, I don’t recall but I’m sure I’ve been asked that because I order a veggie delight every time I’m in Subway and the workers there are usually pretty overworked and tired, so they most likely asked and I laughed :). Love my Subway people though!

      You should go back and find what happened the year you graduated (06, I think?). Just google “fun facts from 2006” or something like that… it’s really surprising how much the world changes in just a few short years.

  10. I used to go to the library all the time— especially when I was at Central. We don’t go very often anymore because I buy all my books for my kindle (which is actually kind-of at a discount, seeings as they’re not in paper) but when we do go to the library it’s usually for Stephen King books (because Chris is a HUGE fan) and I always make him read them before I buy them (considering they’re usually 30.00 or more and he ONLY wants the HARD COVER).
    YAY for FREE drinks and COUPONS. Our Sonic had 1/2 off shakes yesterday (we didn’t get any… but the smalls were still at a good deal)

    -Mel

  11. You should be proud of you buddy David Geddings http://doombuggyrunner.com. I took him to the library the other day, helped him get a library card, and showed him around. Reminded me of taking my kids when they were little. Except he is a grown man and all …

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Haha- you guys have the nice library downtown too! I’m stuck going to the West Ashley branch behind the Earth Fare. It’s nice too, but I definitely have to place holds and request my books 🙂

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