Have you been to a public library lately? With hundreds of locations in Washington state, your nearest library is packed with little-known perks.
The King County Library System (KCLS) has 49 locations, with a 50th in the works. Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum points to three successful libraries in unconventional places: the mall.
There are public libraries at the Westfield Mall in Southcenter, the Town Center at Lake Forest Park, and Crossroads Bellevue. They are positioned to draw in community members who might not otherwise visit a public library.
So if you think libraries are only good for borrowing books, you're missing the full story. Here are five free perks to check out at your closest King County library:
Free digital downloads of e-books and audiobooks
KCLS has led the nation in digital downloads for the past five years. KCLS reports more than 4.86 million downloads in 2018, a 23 percent increase over 2017.
Top 5 digital downloads through KCLS in 2018:
1. Origin by Dan Brown
2. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
3. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
4. The Midnight Line by Lee Child
5. Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Cardholders can also access thousands of free movies, TV shows, songs, and magazines. Learn more here.
Free museum passes
Get free admission to some of Puget Sound's most popular museums with a KCLS library card. You can reserve passes for the Seattle Aquarium, Museum of Flight, KidsQuest Children's Museum in Bellevue, and others.
The free museum passes come available every day at 2 p.m. and can be reserved up to two weeks in advance.
Free museum passes are also offered to Seattle Public Library cardholders.
You can also check out a free Discover Pass and backpack adventure kit at one of the these Washington state libraries.
Join a book group based on your interests
Of course, books are the backbone of any traditional library. So if you're looking to dive deeper into your reading experience, consider joining a book group geared specifically to your interests.
Community groups meet at a variety of times and can be a great way to branch out and connect with like-minded readers.
KCLS offers reading groups in languages like Russian and Spanish, clubs for homeschoolers, and The Friendship Club for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities, including dementia.
Free online tutorials to further your education at any level
Public libraries are an avenue of lifelong learning and continued education. Visitors can learn a second language, dive into coding or access programs to enhance an existing skill set.
KCLS offers individual, real-time tutoring via chat for students in grades K-12, entry-level college, and adults pursuing a variety of topics.
There are even fitness tutorials available. You can stream free yoga, dance, and other exercise programs here.
Learn how to build and grow your business
Library cardholders can experience economic empowerment through library programs and opportunities. From providing spreadsheet tutorials to tax help, the library has many free resources for small business owners.
KCLS Executive Director Lisa Rosenblum said they want visitors to view libraries as a trusted place. For many guests, especially those new to America, the library is their first introduction to the intersection of community and government.