There’s not much that’s truly FREE these days. Usually, there tends to be a catch; but when it comes to the Memphis Public Library,FREE is the theme and the only “catch” is that you better come ready to learn and have fun, especially if you’re a teenager, because you have access to endless amounts of information, resources, and state-of-the-art technology!
There are 18 Memphis Public Library branches across the city.Any resident of Memphis, Bartlett, and unincorporated Shelby County are entitled to a FREE card (anyone who lives outside the service area may pay an annual fee of $50 to obtain a Memphis Public Library & Information Center library card). Last year, there were more than 450,000 library card holders (represents 54% of the entire service-area population) and over 2.2 million people visited the Library.
Everything the Library offers is FREE, which includes tax assistance, legal clinics, foreign films, job assistance, e-books, art classes, musical performances, and more. For perspective, in 2015, more than 30,500 people attended the 1,090 programs aimed at children; over 1,200 people received business start-up advice through the 90 business-related programs; and more than 2,300 people attended the Library’s 90+ Health & Safety programs, which included eye exams, fire safety, and exercise classes.
As a card holder, you also have FREE access to new technology. There are iPads, laptops, and desktops for use, along with access to sites like Lynda.com, which offers tutorials on subjects like graphic design, photography, and web development. Teenagers can take full advantage of CLOUD901, an 8,300+ square foot space in the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library that features a recording studio, video production facility, and Makerspace. After school and on the weekends, you’ll find over 100 teens learning, creating, and presenting each day!
What makes all of this possible is the Memphis Library Foundation. The City of Memphis budget covers only library facilities and staffing, with a small annual allocation for books and materials. Raising the bar, like with the $1.9 million construction of CLOUD901, takes teamwork and community support. There are many ways you can help and events you can enjoy, which you’ll find listed at memphislibraryfoundation.org. For information about getting a card and all of the FREE programs, go to memphislibrary.org.