The One Stop Shop For Free Books, Movies And Mags

Don’t be afraid of your local library! I know, I know, the quiet and nerd-like environment may fall outside your comfort zone, but I’ll be your guide. Take my hand and let me show you my natural habitat – an incredible world of cool stuff you don’t have to pay for.

In high school the library was a refuge for weirdos like me. If I had a lunch break free of clarinet ensemble rehearsals or debating meetings, I’d wolf down my lunch and head straight up the cement steps and into that air-conditioned chapel of knowledge. (Not that I made much of an effort to further my education while there – there was a “seniors only” section that you needed parental permission to borrow from, so mostly I went through it looking for books that had sexy bits in them – hello, Tomorrow When the War Began.) I was lucky that my school had an incredible library, and I was even luckier that it was often empty because it definitely wasn’t cool.

Now fast-forward to 2017. I no longer run up the steps and into the library due to lack of friends, I go there due to lack of funds. Don’t lie to me, I have it on good authority that even “cool” people get shocked by utilities bills sometimes. Everyone is still recovering from the money-vacuum that is the silly season. I’m a freelancer now so I can be making it rain one week, then be 2-minute-noodling the next.

When we tighten our belts sometimes it feels too self-indulgent to still want to do fun things. But you deserve to do fun things!

You still want to see films and flip through glossies? Well, you can! Let me take you on a tour of your city’s best-kept-penny-pincher: The humble public library.

Welcome, welcome, it’s going to cost you something like $0.

Public libraries are free to join. Take your driver’s license to prove your identity and where you live. You’ll be able to log in online to check overdue fees and items on hold.

The mags here are cleaner than the ones in your GP’s waiting room

What super nice and current periodical would you look at today for no money? I’m not kidding. Frankie, Juxtapoz, or Kinfolk? Or are you more of a New Yorker or The Monthly kind of person? Sometimes now in the library I flip through CLEO just because I can. Because. It. Is. Free. They have national and international newspapers as well, and back issues in case you want to research a publication or look up a particular story.

Most libraries also have a funky service called Zinio. It takes a bit of app-downloading and fiddling, but once it’s done you can access current issues of magazines online for free too. To be clear: yes, this means you can read the latest issue of Vogue or Smith Journal the day it comes out and not even have to set foot in my four-eye-filled temple of tomes.


Stop pirating, you fool! Get movies for free without breaking the law

Fun fact: when you borrow a DVD from the library it works a little like Spotify does with tracks. You don’t pay per song/movie, but in the big information-collecting world wide web, they keep a list of how many times people watch and borrow things, and a small amount of money goes to the creator/licensor. So you pay nothing but you’re not stealing. Check the facilities your local library has too, because some actually – you’re not going to believe this – have rooms with nice couches that you can watch movies in. Don’t see anything you want to watch at your local suburban library? Put in a hold request and they might transfer it to your branch for you! It’s that good.

Cookbooks + big fancy inspirational books + travel guides

Cooking at home saves you money, but if you’re bad at it and stuck for ideas cookbooks are expensive. Libraries have photocopiers and they’re either coin-operated or work off your library card. Go find a book about what produce is in season before you go to the supermarket and boom you’re saving even more money.

Many young creatives I know are the people most in need of finance tips, and I wish more of them knew how many huge and beautiful inspirational books they can find at their local libraries. Fashion, photography, art, architecture – they’re all there. Take your gear and take up a whole table for sketching. Do whatever you want – the library is there for you.

Lonely Planet guides can be $30-$50 a pop and they’re constantly being updated. Do your research, photocopy or take notes about what you need, and save your money for the trip itself.

Meeting rooms can be for non-serious stuff

Many libraries have meeting rooms that are free and can be booked either in the mornings each day, or a couple of weeks in advance. So long as you’re not using the space for commercial purposes, anyone is welcome! Make a zine there. Watch a DvD there. Take a date there. Some folks (me) will be right into it.


All the luxuries of modern life will be right at your fingertips

All libraries are air-conditioned and they all have free Wi-Fi. This comes in particularly handy if you’ve used up all your monthly data either on your phone or home plan. You won’t be able to do big downloads (but see my point above about not torrenting anything anymore) and occasionally the connection struggles depending on how many other people are online at the same time, but honestly libraries have saved my little freelancing butt more than once. And I’m a ginger living in Queensland, so air-conditioning for me is a kind of hyper-luxury. Realistically, between the months of November and March my productivity skyrockets when I can work in air-conditioning. If you’re self-employed it’s just nice to get out of the house sometimes too without feeling obliged to spend $20 at the local café.

The moral of this story is that you’ll be a richer person – both in heart and wallet – if you start using Australian libraries. Get to know your local:







Bri Lee is a Brisbane-based writer and the Founding Editor of Hot Chicks with Big Brains. Her first book, Eggshell Skull will be released in early 2018.

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