50+ Free Things You Can Do Through The Seattle Public Library

The interior of the Central LibraryWant to learn a language, improve your job skills, find free one-on-one tutoring, download new songs, learn web design, or find a read-aloud for your child?

You can do all of these things and much more through The Seattle Public Library. A dozen or so of the activities in this list do not even require a Library card.

Happy exploring, escaping and learning! And yes, this is just a sampling. Find many more programs, services, and, of course, our collections, at spl.org and at our 27 locations. (Note: We will regularly update this list, so check back. Add your favorite thing that we missed in the comments!)

Free things to do through the Library without a card

  1. Central Library's red floor
    Don’t miss a visit to the Central Library’s iconic Floor (Level 4) reopened to the public in July 2022.

    Reacquaint yourself with the iconic Central Library. Now that all of Central’s  public spaces are reopened,  it’s a great time to visit: Walk the innovative nonfiction Book Spiral from Levels 6-9, visit the Betty Jane Narver Reading Room and the Seattle Room on Level 10 (history! views!), find the hidden murals, book a music practice room on Level 9 (Library card needed), and cozy up with your kids in the light-filled Children’s Center. And don’t forget the Red Floor.

  2. Visit a new-to-you branch: Explore the collections, unique art and attributes of our 26 distinctive branches, from the architecture of Magnolia Branch to the Soul Pole at Douglass-Truth.
  3. Get free Homework Help: After a 2.5 year pandemic pause, the Library’s free, drop-in afterschool tutoring program (www.spl.org/HomeworkHelp) has restarted at six branches: The Columbia, Douglass-Truth, High Point, Lake City, NewHolly and Rainier Beach branches. No reservations and no Library card needed, but check the schedule on the Homework Help page.
  4. Scan and fax for free: The Library offers free high-speed scanning and faxing through ScanEZ kiosks at 16 Library locations (described by one Library staffmember as “Best. Machine. Ever). You can also print up to 10 black-and-white pages and 3 color pages per week for free (all locations have printers).
  5. Borrow an “uncatalogued” book: Every Library location, including the children’s section, has a selection of what we call “uncatalogued” books – books that you don’t have to check out. Take it home, bring it back when you’re done.
  6. Participate in Seattle Reads, the Library’s citywide reading program. The 2022 selection is “The House of Broken Angels,” which will bring its Pulitzer Prize winning author Luis Alberto Urrea to town.
  7. Get personalized book recommendations with Your Next 5 Books.
  8. Learn a new language, hobby or skill with a lesson plan from Your Next Skill.
  9. Paint, draw and dance: The Library partners with Silver Kite to offer virtual arts classes in everything from beginning drawing to essay writing. Explore at www.spl.org/calendar.
  10. Find Your Next Job with one-on-one help in resume building, job skills and more, from a librarian, in nine languages.
  11. Attend a virtual story time with your child or a virtual event that’s just for you. Story time image
  12. Listen to an author reading, thrilling tale or presentation with Library podcasts. The Library has also relaunched in-person author events, with terrific events planned for fall 2022; check www.spl.org/calendar.
  13. Contribute your pandemic stories to the COVID-19 Community Collection.
  14. Request a one-on-one virtual appointment to get free help and legal advice for starting or managing a small business. 
  15. Become an Excel spreadsheet expert with Microsoft Imagine Academy.
  16. Learn about Seattle’s culture through the Library’s Seattle Culture & Local History online collections, including photography, art and more.

    Art by Erin Shigaki
    Year of Wonder art by Erin Shigaki
  17. Discover local artists: The Library regularly partners with local artists. Our Year of Wonder campaign most recently featured the work of Erin Shigaki. Download a postcard to print and color yourself.
  18. Ask us anything: If you need help with any of these resources or services, or have other questions, our staff can help you in multiple languages. Just call 206-386-4636 or contact Ask Us, the Library’s email and chat service. You can also ask for help at your local Seattle Public Library branch.

Free things to do with your Seattle Public Library card

Note: For the best results in clicking through, log in at spl.org first.Library card images

  1. Borrow a picture book that does the reading for you. Tired parents can now borrow “Read-Along” picture books, which come with an attached MP3 player on the inside front cover that reads the book aloud  -no additional equipment is needed. The collection includes 50 titles and 500 copies to SPL’s children’s kits collection.
  2. Learn about your city: New to Seattle, or just want to learn more? Our librarians have crafted several guides (here, here and here) to essential books about Seattle, covering everything from hip-hop history to fiction bestsellers to a graphic horror novel (!).
  3. Get free, personalized one-on-one virtual tutoring through Tutor.com in English, Vietnamese and Spanish.
  4. Read The New York Times online, for free and access their full historical archives.
  5. Get book suggestions with NovelList.
  6. Explore the Library catalog through the Lists feature: Find Staff Picks, Bestsellers and more.
  7. Learn tech skills – from Word to Excel to PowerPoint with Northstar’s Digital Literacy lessons.
  8. Borrow a Kill-A-Watt device, which will tell you what’s eating up all the power in your home.
  9. Let your kids read along to virtual books through TumbleBooks.
  10. BookflixAccess animated stories and interactive games through BookFlix, in both Spanish and English.
  11. Ditch Netflix and Disney Plus and stream movies and shows through Kanopy, Hoopla and Access Video.
  12. Reserve a free museum pass to participating institutions with the Library’s reactivated Museum Pass program from the Museum of Flight and the Seattle Aquarium to the Museum of History and Industry and the Seattle Art Museum.
  13. Visit a Washington State Park for free by borrowing a Discover Pass, through our Outdoor Recreation resources.
  14. Write on with inspiring lectures from local writers on Seattle Writes – YouTube channel.
  15. Get help with classes as a K-12 student or an adult.
  16. Stream digital comic books and graphic novels through Hoopla.
  17. Get cover letter and resume help on Tutor.com. It’s not just for students, it’s for job seekers too!
  18. Borrow, download or stream movies and TV shows.
  19. Download and stream music for free through services like PlayBack and Freegal.
  20. Learn a new language through Mango. We’ve got over 70 to choose from!
  21. Take citizenship classes, ESOL classes or become part of an English Circle.
  22. Learn programming, business skills or web design with over 5,000 books from O’Reilly Complete Public Library.
  23. Peak PicksCheck out a Peak Picks book on your next visit to a branch — bestselling titles with no holds and no wait.
  24. Get healthy with easy-to-browse health and medical journals.
  25. Save money with Consumers’ Checkbook, a guide to Puget Sound services and stores.
  26. Research your purchases with Consumer Reports.
  27. Research your family history through our genealogy resources or a virtual appointment with a genealogy librarian.
  28. Check out a Wi-Fi hot spot for when you’re at home or on the go.
  29. Get inspired with digital creativity classes. Learn how to use a camera or sell your work on Etsy!
  30. Dive into online research that’s only available to Library cardholders.
  31. Browse our Exploration Guides on subjects of high interest to learners in grades 3-12.
  32. Host book discussion groups using “Always Available” e-books and e-audiobooks in OverDrive.
  33. Read local, national and international magazines and newspapers.
  34. Access more than 7,000 international publications through PressReader.
  35. Keep up on local news (and history) through access to the complete archives of the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  36. Oxford English DictionaryGet another Library card! Through reciprocal use agreements, SPL cardholders can get a card neighboring library systems, which allows you to check out books from their catalog as well as use their online services.
  37. Look up the roots of words with the Oxford English Dictionary.
  38. Research stocks and funds with Morningstar and Value Line before investing!
  39. Learn new business, creative and career skills with online courses at LinkedIn Learning.
  40. Check out books, e-books, audiobooks, e-audiobooks and DVDs from our vast collections.

How to get a card with The Seattle Public Library

If you don’t have a Library card, it’s easy to get one online or in person. Apply for a card in minutes through an application at spl.org/Card. We offer applications in Spanish, Vietnamese, Amharic, Somali and Chinese, as well as in English; and there is a children’s application as well.

A Library card from The Seattle Public Library is free for anyone who lives, works, owns property or goes to school in the Library’s service area, which includes Seattle, Bothell and most parts of King County, through our reciprocal use agreement with the King County Library System. Cardholders from several library systems in Washington may also qualify.

Call 206-386-4636 or contact Ask Us, the Library’s email and chat service, for help with getting a Library card or anything else.

Elisa M., Communications

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