Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Use the digital services of your local library

[This article was originally written just for Six Colors members. To get access to more stories, an exclusive weekly podcast, and a members-only community, support us by becoming a Six Colors subscriber.]

A lot of us are locked in our homes these days. You may be looking for something to read. And your local library is probably closed—I know mine is.

But I’ve got potentially good news! You may never have thought about it, but today’s libraries generally provide services that go way beyond the lending of physical books and other media. And if you’re very lucky, your local library will let you access one or many different digital media repositories.

An audiobook in Libby.

My library card gives me free access to the Overdrive collection of ebooks and audiobooks. The single best feature of Overdrive is probably Libby, a mobile app that lets you quickly and easily check books in and out. You can read books in Libby or, if you’ve got another e-reader like a Kindle, you can check out books that will then appear in your Kindle library temporarily.

Libby also works really well as an audiobook player. If you’ve never thought about borrowing audiobooks from your local library, you should—Libby makes browsing, borrowing, and listening pretty much painless.

My wife is a librarian, so I’m aware of Libby, but a lot of people don’t even realize that libraries have digital services, and even if you do, you might not know about Libby. Give it a try—download the app and see if your local library offers Overdrive as a service. You’ll need a library card in order to make it work, but if you don’t have one, don’t despair—many libraries will let you sign up for a card remotely so you can get started while you’re staying at home.

Even if your local library doesn’t have Overdrive, you’ll be surprised what other subscription services might be available to you. Many libraries offer free access to Kanopy, a streaming service with a big collection of movies that has its own iOS and Apple TV apps. I get a limited number of Kanopy “credits” every month to spend on movie rentals—all for free.

My library also offers access to dozens of magazines via the RBdigital app. Many libraries also subscribe to Hoopla, another service that offers all sorts of movies, TV shows, ebooks, and more.

What I’m saying is: You may be stuck inside and your library may be closed. But its virtual doors may be wide open! 1 And you may have access to all sorts of media services that won’t charge you a penny to join. So go to your local library website and get started.


  1. While you’re at it, check out other nearby libraries—they may be happy to let you sign up for one of their library cards, too, and that will increase the number of services you have access to. ↩