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Libraries Are Telling People How Much Money They Save by Not Buying Books

Public libraries are awesome. They can save you a ton of money, too.

by Matthew Gault
Aug 14 2019, 12:00pm

Image: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Today there’s hundreds of places to legally read free books, especially if they’re older and in the public domain. But your local public library is even better, and picking up a free copy of a new bestseller is as easy as signing up for a card. As spotted on Boing Boing, some libraries even let customers know just how much money they’re saving by using the library instead of buying new books.

This week, Redditor penguinska9 posted their library receipt in the /r/mildlyinteresting subreddit. “Just noticed that my library keeps track of how much you save by not buying books and borrowing instead,” they said.

According to their receipt, buying the books they’d checked out that year would have cost $1,384.23 and they’ve saved a total of $7,078.76 since they started using the library.

The receipt is a feature of the Polaris Integrated Library System, an inventory management system for public libraries, that was added in 2016. According to a blog post from the Wichita Public Library, one of the libraries that uses Polaris, “The ‘You Saved’ feature calculates the amount saved based on the original price of the material when it was purchased by the Library.”

Modern libraries are doing a lot to ensure that nobody ever has to pay for a new book again. Even if you prefer audio books or ebooks, libraries still have you covered. Many libraries have systems that allow patrons to download audiobooks and ebooks directly to their phone.

Libraries are even eliminating dreaded late fees. My own local library recently got rid of fees and canceled all outstanding balances, which was nice because I owed them about $5. “Many customers, when they reach that max fine, we never see them again,” Richland Library official Tony Tallent told local newspaper The State.

Many of America’s public institutions are falling apart, but our libraries remain a strong source of knowledge and joy for their communities. The ability to see what the library saves you in financial terms only drives that home.