Cooper River Memorial Library (copy)

Charleston County Public Library patrons are seen using some of the online resources at the Cooper River Memorial Library on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston in 2017. File/Staff

Too often these days when people talk about sharing — the sharing economy, bike shares, ride-sharing — they are really talking about renting, or paying for services.

That's not sharing. But there really is a place that shares money-saving goods and services, at no charge. It's called the public library.

Sure, you can still check out actual books and dvds, and surprising things such as telescopes (in Charleston County). But modern libraries are online powerhouses that provide free access to online courses, movies and music downloads, e-books, audio books, job search tools, databases of newspaper archives and more.

These services are available from library systems throughout the state. If you live in a county that doesn't have an excellent library system, you can join a library in a different area, usually for a small fee.

Consider the Charleston County Public Library, which is free for anyone who lives in the county at least 30 days, and $40 yearly for others. With a library card, patrons get access to all sorts of electronic media that people routinely pay to access elsewhere.

For example, instead of having members of a book club go out and all buy the same book, they could consider downloading electronic versions from the library to their tablets, phones or Kindle devices. Book clubs that prefer hard copies can check out book clubs kits with 15 copies of the same title, for up to six weeks.

There are plenty of paid video and music streaming services available to consumers, but the library offers several services at no charge. Library card holders can access television shows, movies, music, audiobooks, e-books, and even graphic novels.

The library-accessible Freegal music streaming service offers "three hours of music daily" and you can download, and keep, five music tracks weekly. Freegal's catalog is large, with about 13 million songs, including Sony Music’s catalog, and tens of thousands of music videos.

The Hoopla streaming service, also free through the library, allows 10 downloads monthly of television shows, movies, music "albums" and books — e-books, audiobooks, and comic books.

There's also RB Digital, an unlimited movie-streaming service, and OverDrive, another way to download e-books and audiobooks. 

While some of the services have limits, the number of services offered make it easy to download audio and video extensively.

Catching up on the news? Of course, nothing beats a subscription to The Post and Courier, but library card holders can also get free 24-hour access to The New York Times and access to newspaper archives that in some cases go back to the 1690s.

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Looking for a job? The library is a one-stop shop for local, regional, state and national job-search sites, as well as tools for finding contract work and unemployment assistance. 

There are also online language classes in 71 languages, automotive repair manuals, genealogy resources and more.

One valuable library offering is free online courses through access to the learning site. Learn how to use office software, design websites, develop software and improve social media skills, all at no cost. 

Most of the services libraries offer can be accessed electronically from any location. A select few, such as the library version of, can only be accessed from computers at library branches.

Libraries today offer lots more than book-sharing, and that can be good for your personal economy.

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552. Follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or