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Save Money -- Use Your Library
Your local library should be one of your best friends.


This is especially true if you spend any time reading or doing research about personal finance and investing. Problem is, most people don't take advantage of all the resources that libraries offer.


If you haven't visited a library lately, you may still think they are just a place where you can borrow books. In reality, they have moved well beyond that in recent years and have embraced the digital revolution -- to the point where it has caused friction with publishers.


That means libraries can offer a huge amount of information to help you with personal finances and investing. Here are a few ways the library can do this:


Access resources from home: The first assumption that you may have is that you have to physically go to the library to take advantage of its resources. This is no longer the case. Many libraries now offer 24/7 access to their databases at your home -- for free.


The databases available vary from library to library, but most carry digital back issues of popular magazines (including business, investing, personal finance and trade magazines) along with a wide variety of research, newspapers and encyclopedias that are not available on the Internet. The best part is it doesn't cost you a dime. All you need is a library card and your home computer with Internet service.



Each library's database access system will work a bit differently so your best bet is to contact your local library's reference desk to see exactly what is available and how to access it from your home computer.


Subscriptions: Again, what different libraries offer varies, but many have free access to online subscriptions services that don't get indexed in search engines and aren't available without paying a fee. These can include such things as e-books, music and downloadable audio-books. It may also include Web site content from magazines and newspapers that are subscription-only over the Internet.


Investment research: If you research your own investments, the cost of relevant newsletters and periodicals can run into the hundreds of dollars. Many times these publications have important information that is difficult for an individual to afford. These may very well be available at your local library for free, and more and more of these are also becoming available online.


If your library doesn't have the research materials you want, you can request that they purchase them. While budgets can be tight, you may be surprised at how willing most libraries will be to work to help you get the periodical you desire, especially if you can get a group of friends or investment club members to make the same request so they know there is community interest.


Free research assistance: One of the biggest assets that libraries provide that most people miss are the free research assistance. Librarians are very good at tracking down whatever information you're looking for. If you need the best books on a particular investment strategy or personal finance area, but know little about it yourself, this is a good place to begin.


Quiet place to work: Your house may not always be the quietest place to get reading and research done. But if you go to the library, you can even bring the kids; they can roam the children's section and find books and other materials of interest while you work. Many libraries now have computers that you can use to work on and more and more are installing free wifi connections where you can work off your own laptop.


A huge collection of resources: Last but not least, there is a huge number of items you can borrow for free. These are not limited to books; there are also CDs, videos, DVDs, tapes, etc. Many libraries have group relationships with other libraries in their area, so even if your library appears small, they may have access to all the books at a number of larger libraries in the area, even university libraries.


The library is a great place to "test drive" financial material that can be expensive. Use the library version and if, after reading it, you know you will refer to the book, newsletter or periodical on an ongoing basis, then you know that it will be worthwhile to purchase it yourself. But if you only refer to it on occasion, or never again, you saved yourself the cost of that item.


If you haven't taken a trip to your library lately, make the time to stop by and explore. Ask what services are available. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that you have a lot more financial information at your fingertips than you ever knew.

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