Personal Finance

My Favorite Source for Movies? The Library

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Last updated on July 24, 2019 Comments: 16

I’ve never been a big movie buyer, and I own a whopping three DVDs. If I can’t guarantee I’m going to watch it at least five times, I don’t want it cluttering my abode. But I do like movies, and so I opt for rentals. And there are more rental options out there now than ever before. Plenty of ways to add another bill to my monthly deluge.

I hear Netflix is pretty good, as long as you properly estimate how many movies you’ll need at one time. And my mailbox is constantly bombarded by ads for Blockbuster’s similar offering. There’s also the downloading option, from iTunes and the like.

But to me, nothing compares to my local public library.

In the very minimal off-time I’ve had lately, we’ve been chilling out with free movies, everything from foreign films to more recent hits like Babel, I Heart Huckabees, City of God, and The Corpse Bride. They even have HBO’s wonderful Rome series, which retails for $71.49 for the complete series on Amazon. And that’s the discounted price.

They don’t have every movie I’ve wanted to see, but there’s a very nice selection, I can take out as many at a time as I like, and keep them for a whole week without cost. I can renew them, too.

I keep a list of movies I’d like to see on my desktop, then go online every so often and request a couple via interlibrary loan. When they’re in, I get a call and go pick them up.

I’m lazy that way–it’s been months since I searched the shelves for anything. I do the same thing with books, and I feel like I have my own personal concierge service. It’s pretty sweet.

I don’t remember Blockbuster ever having a stack of my choices waiting for me when I got there, even when I phoned first to make sure my selections were in stock.

Plus, while I’m there, I can pick up some books to help grow my career skills. At the local video store, I’m just likely to pick up popcorn.

Article comments

Anonymous says:

Hear! Hear! on the libraries. They are awesome and I use them all the time…particularly the los Angeles Public Library which has a wide variety of books and is fairly well funded. Thanks also to Mr Carnegie for making our public libraries possible. If anyone wants to talk about sustainable philanthropy, lets start with him and his ingenious design for education.

Anonymous says:

Depending on your library, it can be a great source for music as well. Mine stocks many greatest hits CD – from good artists – and classical music albums.

Sorry you had to sit through I (heart) Huckabees, though.

Anonymous says:


What are your three DVDs?

Sasha says:

Great suggestions and feedback, everyone!

Still not through I Heart Huckabees either–was short on time this week but we may watch it tonight after dinner.

Anonymous says:

Check out university libraries for movies and other media.

One of the branch campuses of our university (in Arizona, there’s never more than one in a major metropolitan area, and none in minor metro areas) has a department whose faculty teaches film and order DVDs in great volume and variety. The choice of movies is terrific…and it doesn’t stop there. There’s also an awesome selection of classical, jazz, and popular CDs.

Anonymous says:

I live in Seattle… where movies from the library seems to be very popular. I find myself having to wait a relatively long time ~8-12 months for the recent DVD releases. After I hear about a new release, I log on to “place a hold” but usually find I’m at position #800 or so. Do you have a suggestion for a web site that lists upcoming DVD releases so I can try and beat the other library users and get an earlier spot in the cue? The good news is that the library often orders many copies of the most popular new DVDs so the wait isn’t too long.

Anonymous says:

I used to buy a lot of movies when I worked odd shifts and didn’t live near a video rental store or library (and getting to them during my waking hours was a pain). Now I live near a very good library, and my wife and I borrow most of our movies there. We like to catch up on all the old flicks that we haven’t seen before. It saves a lot of money! 🙂

Anonymous says:

I am with you – I feel the same way about the library, it is one of the greatest resources that most of us have. Just about any book, publication, movie, music you can get your hands on – for FREE!!

Anonymous says:

I wonder if you mean ILL the way libraries use it? That means getting the film from outside the system, often another state. Fear not, libraries track their costs and have been known to charge for ILLs if they feel it warrants it – or they limit the type of items that can be requested.

My system doesn’t allow holds or renewals on media (boo!) so I’m ‘forced’ to browse the shelf.. but that leads to an element of happenstance, which isn’t a bad thing.

Anonymous says:

My wife started teaching this year (Hooray 2 incomes), and we’ve made a couple of trips to the local library for books to use during music class. I have looked at the movie selections while she is in the kid’s section and I must say I was very surprised by the different titles that were available.

On a random note, I thought I Heart Huckabees was awful. We couldn’t finish it!

Sasha says:


I probably overstated my use of the interlibrary loan–most of the time the books and movies I get are from my local library because they do have a good selection, but I’m certainly not afraid to use ILL.

We pay for so many other things in life, that I see the library being free in this day and age as a fantastic life perk.

That said, I still do give them money–sometimes in late fees, sometimes just because. If you are a heavy library user, I think it doesn’t hurt to toss some money their way now and again for the services they offer.

Yes, I’m so happy they’re free, I give them money voluntarily. It’s just the way I work.

Anonymous says:

I think I have purchased less than 5 DVDs. I hardly ever watch a movie more than once or twice and I don’t think it is worth the cost to purchase them unless you are purchasing them for a child. I know they can watch the same cartoon numerous times.

Anonymous says:

Amen! Nothing says cheap entertainment like a movie from the library! We started by going to get kids’ movies from the library – who wants to actually own a Wiggles DVD, eh? Checking them out and dropping them back off when your time is up is frugal and liberating. “I’m sorry, but remember? We had to take Barney back to teh library yesterday.”
Finally, the lightbulb went off – get yourself a movie while you’re getting kids’ movies, you goofball. But browsing the racks at the library isn’t that much fun, so the online reserving is just greatness. We call it “Lib-flix”. Hooray for cheap dates.

Anonymous says:

Libraries tend to carry an assortment of old VHS tapes too…if you’re looking to learn a new language or learn an instrument, they have tapes for that as well.

Anonymous says:

The library is my first choice too.

Our system allows patrons to search the database for the keyword phrase, “on order dvd”. If you wait until the DVD arrives at the libray, 400+ people will have already reserved the title. I’ve been known to max out the 15 hold request limit per card in our family.

If you time it right, you can have a steady trickle of movies as the library system moves you up the hold list.

Anonymous says:

The library is great, but I think doing a lot of ILL to get movies is kind of selfish.

Although you’re saving money, you’re transferring the cost to the library, which incurs the cost of transporting and handling the item.