When Jamie Bowers tells Free Library visitors that they can use their library card to stream movies, check out musical instruments, or learn to code, she’s often met with the same shocked retort.

“They’ll say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know the library had this,’” said Bowers, the library’s electronic resource coordinator. “And to be honest, my heart sinks when I hear that.”

Jamie Bowers, the Free Library’s electronic resource coordinator, said patrons are often shocked when she tells them all they can do with a library card.
Courtesy Free Library of Philadelphia
Jamie Bowers, the Free Library’s electronic resource coordinator, said patrons are often shocked when she tells them all they can do with a library card.

For its 570,441 cardholders, the Free Library system offers thousands of resources, materials, online courses, workshops, and classes. The Inquirer compiled a list of some of the more unconventional ones that patrons can access to maximize their library card. They include:

Access free WiFi

Visit any of the 54 branches to use WiFi; just log in with your library card number and PIN.

Stream movies, documentaries, and TV shows free

Stream films like Lady Bird and Moonlight (up to four per month) for free on Kanopy, an on-demand streaming service that holds more than 30,000 films and documentaries. Patrons can also stream movies, TV, music, and audio books on a computer, tablet, or cell phone with Hoopla.

Borrow unconventional materials — guitars, food scales, blood pressure monitors, and more

Browse the nearly 50 mostly string instruments at the Central Library’s Musical Instrument Collection on the Parkway, including acoustic guitars, violins, mandolins, and ukuleles, then take one home for practice.

If you prefer listening, access nearly 5,000 jazz albums online, a database of classical recordings, a database of contemporary world music, and more than 50,000 historical American recordings.

Bird watchers can check out birding backpacks at Andorra. At the South Philadelphia library’s Health Lending Library, patrons can borrow a food scale or an electronic blood pressure monitor.

Trace your family roots

Discover family history with the library’s genealogy resources, which offer centuries worth of local censuses, newspapers, maps, and more.

Learn beyond the classroom - get free homework help, learn to cook, knit, do yoga

Homework Help Online connects scholars seven days a week from 2 to 11 p.m. via live chat with certified tutors in English or Spanish. Brainfuse Adult Learning Center gives one-on-one help with resumés and cover letters, and direct feedback on writing samples from experts.

Learn a new language with one of four online language databases. Choose from more than 70 language courses on Mango Languages, and get access to DuoLingo, the Pittsburgh-based language learning app. If you’re ready to try out your skills, join a language conversation group, offered at multiple branches. If you’re looking to learn English, take traditional or non-traditional English courses.

Use the databases to learn to drive a car, truck, or motorcycle. Learn yoga at Fishtown, learn to code at Parkway Central, learn to knit at Fumo Family. Get free legal help or learn to cook low-sodium meals on a budget at Northwest Regional.

The free computers have long been a resource to job hunt, create or edit resumés, set up an email account, or submit an application. But now, both budding entrepreneurs and established professionals can get help to become their best professional selves. Free head shots are available at Parkway Central’s Business Resource and Innovation Center, where patrons can also attend free classes and workshops on personal finance, grant writing, and more. Ties for the perfect job-interview ensemble are on loan at the Paschalville branch, which also has a Job Readiness Lab to assist job seekers. If you’re striving to learn new skills or knowledge, watch thousands of video courses taught by industry experts on Lynda.com from LinkedIn.

For a full list of library events visit www.freelibrary.org/calendar. To access a full list of the library’s thousands of programs, services, databases, and resources, go to freelibrary.org.