I'm always looking for a free ride. In this new life of mine as a mom, I'm always looking for ways to replace goods and services we pay for with cost-free ways to get things done, whether it's the grocery shopping or movie rental. I give myself double super secret probation points for finding local free stuff.
Just as I'm never far from a bargain bin, I'm never far from the library. Each of the 25 branches of the Tulsa City-County Library, five of which are open seven days a week, offers a plethora of options for picky freeloaders like me. Check it out.
Books. Keep up to 50 books for up to two weeks. If you're like me and you're a slow reader, you have two chances to renew your borrowing period. If you can't find what you're looking for at your local library, simply request that it be brought to the TCCL branch nearest you, either at your library or via the TCCL Web site.
If Tulsa Library doesn't own a copy of the book for which you lust, there's always Interlibrary Loan, a.k.a. the library gods' gift to book nerds. ILL is a service through which library users can borrow everything from books and videos to microfilm from other libraries when the desired material isn't available at TCCL. And get this - more often than not, these library elves will trade and transport your stuff for a buck, and that's just for postage. Otherwise, it's free like Willy.
The ILL is my kryptonite, especially when it's available online - I am powerless against it. I legs turn to jelly and I can't do any housework whatsoever until it releases its death grip on my consciousness. No, really, it's true. Just ask my husband and my laundry pile.
CDs. Gotta get some tunes? Snag up to ten CDs to keep for two weeks at your local TCCL branch. Just try not to be stupefied by the selection. Warning: You'll have to try hard. Really hard.
Movie rental. Up to five movies can be checked out, each for seven days at a time. When you do movie rental the TCCL way, with its vast selection of everything from silent classics to the latest releases, you'll find yourself wishing for the Christmas Eve snow to return, precluding you from doing anything but putting in some serious mileage on the couch in front of the TV.
Audiobooks, digital music and video. Audiobooks - you know, those things for which the folks at iTunes like to charge more than the actual, dead-tree version of a manuscript. Skip that, wild draw four, reverse and skip that again, folks. Scads of audiobooks are available for download free of charge via the Digital Catalogue on the TCCL Web site. To find out more about how to get started, check out the digital media guided tour.
Internet/Wi-Fi. All TCCL locations offer free wireless Internet access. If you don't have a wireless device, just camp out at one of the many library computers.
Lectures, Classes, Book clubs and story times. These events pepper the calendar at TCCL, and they're all free. Want a class that will teach you how to set up your own business? Looking for a book club for Twilight addicts? Need some peer time for your small fry while squeezing in some intellectual stimulation at the same time? Find them at your nearest TCCL branch.
Book sales. As my faithful readers know, I'm a sucker for old cookbooks. I find plenty at local library book sales. These are not once-in-a-blue-moon sales events - books are on sale every day at the library.
Answer desk. In my former life as full-time business reporter, I may or may not have used the answer desk at the downtown library as regularly as the vending machine in our building (I needed a rather regular peanut M&M fix in those days, so make your own guesses as to how regularly that was exactly). To use the answer desk, here's what you do: You pick up the phone, dial (918) 596-7977 and ask for the answer desk. Then, ask an arcane question - something about consumer trends in the lingerie market in ancient Mesopotamia usually works well - and sit back and await your answer. It's like a Magic 8 Ball, only better. It's certainly more accurate. Plus, librarians make the best phone buddies - especially when they're good and annoyed by questions about ancient underwear.
To be eligible to use these benefits, you must, duh, sign up for a TCCL library card. It's not as if I have to twist your arm to sign up for your very own library card, though, right? Obtaining one's library card is a rite of passage. Without one, you're only half a man/woman. You have no business doing what adults do if you don't have a library card. You're like the schmuck who shows up at a college kegger without your own Solo cup. You are, at best, quasi-human.
Okay, so maybe it's not as bad as all of that. But, still.
More free stuff available at the libraries here in Tulsa are special events, ranging from meet-the-author events to pizza parties for the kids. Hardesty Library even has its own children's event center, Connor's Cove. It hosts everything from concerts to puppet presentations to science experiments, all in the vein of kids' and teen programming.
Cool, right? Connor's Cove is just one of the reasons why Tulsans don't have to wait for Elmo to come to come to town to enjoy great children's theatre.
Speaking of killer free library events, have you heard about the latest thing going on at the library here in Tulsa? It's Where the Art Is: An Arts Celebration with Billie Letts, and it happens tonight (Thursday, Jan. 14).
We all know Billie Letts from the spot where the author's name is printed on the title pages of Where the Heart Is and The Honk and Holler Opening Soon, right? Tonight Billie herself will be downtown at Central Library, 400 Civic Center, to hang out with readers and to enjoy some art and theatre performances with them. Plus, tickets to the play August: Osage County, penned by actor/playwright/Billie Letts' son, Tracy Letts, will be up for grabs.
Oh, August: Osage County. How excited we in Tulsa are for you to get here.
You there. Do you love the library, too? What do you like to do when you go there? If you were Library Captain Supreme of the Tulsa Universe, how would you make our libraries even better?