Seattle Public Library (SPL) is a wonderful resource if you want fun, free things to do. SPL, along with the other regional library systems including King County library system (KCLS), Pierce County libraries, and others offer more than just books for checkout. You can also listen to music, watch movies, get help with school subjects, language learning, computer technology, and much more:
- join a book club
- borrow movies (DVDs) and music (CDs)
- see a movie and participate in a discussion group
- read magazines and newspapers
- take a class
- make crafts
- reserve a library computer
- use WiFi from your personal computer
- get help with business, finance, and taxes
- learn a foreign language or English as a second language
- make digital copies of paper documents
While most library programs are free, a few services and events are offered for a nominal charge. For example, you pay a fee to print documents on paper, buy books at sales that help fund library resources not covered by public funds, or donate to Library Foundation groups (aka “Friends”) who provide additional community support to make libraries a valuable local resource.
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About Puget Sound Libraries
If you recently moved to the Puget Sound region from near or far, libraries offer many helpful resources. As soon as you have a local address, get a free library card. With a library card, you get full access to everything libraries offer:
- Checkout of books, movies, and music, plus digital downloads and streaming services, use of computers and access to meeting rooms.
- Mobile services bring the library to cardholders in remote locations. Bookmobiles might visit a nearby park, school, or YMCA. A few Puget Sound library branches offer delivery for those who are homebound or disabled.
- Online library services are available from the comfort of your home. Using your library card number, you can download e-books, stream movies or music, and read magazines and newspapers online.
- Get help finding jobs and other lifestyle needs such as legal help, tax help, help starting a business, and help for immigrants learning English as a second language or applying for American citizenship.
Books, movies, and music are only the start of what’s available for checkout at local libraries. Just look at the list below. Did you know that some libraries may have these items for checkout?
- Books in a variety of media, including large format, e-books (checkout and read online, on your computer or an e-reader), and audio books (checkout and listen on CD). An e-book is a digital version of a printed book that can be read on a computer or e-reader (a device designed specifically for this purpose, such as a Kindle). An audiobook is a spoken version of the book to be listened to on an audio device such as your computer or smartphone.
- Other digital media, including magazines, music, movies, games.
- Workout videos for all types of exercise and activities (dancing, calisthenics, weightlifting, yoga, Tai Chi, stretching, etc.)
- Materials from other library systems across the U.S. and internationally through interlibrary loan
- Foreign language learning software and online programs (such as Pimsleur , Rosetta Stone, Mango) in as many as 70 world languages
- FREE museum admission. Several library systems in the Puget Sound region partner with area museums to offer free admission passes or coupons. Requirements vary for different libraries and museums. Check with your local library to find out what’s available. Available is often limited, requiring you to plan ahead.
- Accessibility toolkits and assistive devices, such as those for impaired vision, learning disabilities, limited mobility, or hearing loss.
- STEAM and nature backpacks and activity kits. Many libraries regularly host science, “maker space”, and art & craft events at the library. A few also offer take-home kits or lists on a variety of topics, usually for use under supervision of a parent, caregiver, home-schooler, or educator.
- Meeting rooms, study rooms, and event space, including video conference rooms. Reservations are usually required and there may be restrictions on the types of events that may use the rooms (usually free admission and open to the public).
- Technology Hardware. While the trend is definitely towards digital media, a few libraries may have some hardware for loan, such as tablets for school children, laptops (usually a Chromebook), e-readers (usually Kindle paperwhite), and digital cameras or video cameras (usually a GoPro).
Visitors to the Seattle-Tacoma region can also find many activities available for free to anyone visiting a public library, such as classes, movie screenings, story times, live music concerts, reading magazines and newspapers, and art & craft activities.
Puget Sound Library list
For access to any of the above services, start with your local branch. Most have weekend hours and some weeknight hours. All libraries are closed on major holidays.
The following libraries serve the Puget Sound region, listed roughly north to south.
- Sno-Isle Libraries serve cities in Snohomish County, Whidbey Island, and Camano Island.
- Everett Libraries serves the city at two locations.
- King County Public Library serves eastside cities including Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond and other cities in north and south King County.
- Kitsap Regional Library serves the Kitsap Peninsula at nine libraries from Kingston to Port Orchard.
- Seattle Public Library (SPL) serves the city of Seattle at 27 neighborhood branches, plus online and bookmobile ser ices. Many SPL locations are open seven days per week.
- Tacoma Libraries serves the city with eight locations.
- Puyallup Public Library serves the city at their location on South Meridian.
- Pierce County Library (PCL) serves Tacoma and neighboring cities at 20 locations.
- Timberland Regional Library system serves the south Sound in Olympia and surrounding cities, as well as the five counties in Southwest Washington State: Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties.
To check availability of any of these services contact your local library by searching their website, asking at the library information desk, sending email, or phoning the library during regular business hours.
HistoryLink online libraries
HistoryLink.org is the first and largest free, online encyclopedia of community history created expressly for the Internet. It is written by Washingtonians, about Washington State. HistoryLink.org is a work in progress, an ever-evolving online archive of Washington state and local history.
With a few noted exceptions, articles on the site are authoritative, original works prepared exclusively for HistoryLink.org by staff historians, contract writers, volunteers, and subject-matter experts. All essays and features are vetted by professional staff, guided by a distinguished board of scholars, educators, and community leaders.
The free and easily accessible Washington State history reference is used by thousands of students, teachers, journalists, scholars, researchers, and the general public. All content on HistoryLink.org is subject to copyright under a Creative Commons (CC) license for non-commercial use. Follow CC attribution requirements when citing content.
Note: The HistoryLink CC license applies to text only and not images. Copyrights for images on HistoryLink.org are owned by other individuals, institutions, and archives as specified in the image captions.
HistoryLink content is organized into three libraries:
- Features are overview articles — biographical stories and snapshots of communities and historical events, all fully cited.
- Timeline Entries are events keyed to specific dates, offering readers the opportunity to scroll chronologically through Washington state history. All are fully cited.
- People’s Histories are reminiscences, documents, older historical accounts, and personal interpretations. Most are not cited.
FREE Things to do at the Library for Kids & Families
Families and kids could easily spend every day at the local library and never get bored. Just be aware that some activities require advance registration and all are limited by the event space–so when you see something interesting to do, sign up as soon as possible to reserve your space, and then show up on time.
To find free events and activities at your local library, visit the event calendar on their website. Here’s a sampling of what you might find:
- Storytime for kids and adults. On weekdays you’ll find storytime for toddlers and preschool, as well as lunchtimes for working adults. Evenings, weekends, and during school breaks you’ll find storytimes for school-age children and families.
- Tween and teen programs. Educational events, social activities, service projects, movie nights, and occasionally overnights will keep your tween/teen busy, safe, and happy.
- Snacks and meals. Some storytime and tween/teen activities may come with a snack A few local libraries have resources for free and reduced meals for families in need. Cooking demos often include a sample.
- Craft classes. As with story time, you’ll find craft classes for many interests and kids of all ages. Some libraries also feature a “maker space” with tools and supplies for a variety of fun and active projects.
- Music classes and performances. Kids and adults can try a new instrument, learn musical techniques, and watch live performers.
- Meet authors. Authors love meet ardent readers at the library and read selections from their latest children’s, YA, or adult book.
- LEGO club. A popular library activity, there are LEGO and DUPLO building events for kids, adults, and families.
- STEAM activities. A wide variety of fun science, technology, engineering, art, and math activities and events can be found for all ages, young and old alike.
- Movie night. Family movies are shown at libraries on weekends, holidays, and over the summer. Some libraries include free popcorn.
- See a play, ballet, opera, or other performance. Local touring and theater groups offer free performances, usually excerpts of upcoming productions on the stage.
- Celebrate a holiday. You’ll find some of the best FREE kid-friendly holiday events at the library. While libraries are closed on holidays, they celebrate upcoming events with movies, crafts, and more.
- School homework help. Volunteers are often available after school to help with homework.
- Get help from a tutor. Did you know local libraries often have free tutoring for core subjects (reading, writing, math) and foreign languages? They can usually help connect you with someone to help.
- Test and exam monitoring. Testing services are available for a wide range of tests and exams to homeschoolers, students in school, and parents or adults looking to increase their technology skills.
- Homeschool help. Librarians are awesome resources for finding the right resource for homeschooling. Local libraries also host homeschool events and may have curriculum for check-out.
- Build parenting skills with a class, books, and other resources available at the library.
- Volunteer. Libraries have volunteer opportunities for adults and teens. Teens can volunteer after school and over breaks to help with activities for younger kids, keep things tidy, and more.
- Check out an activity or discovery kit. Many libraries have themes kits full of book lists, games, crafts, and activities.
- Find a quiet place to work or study. Most libraries have a quiet study rooms available. Check to see whether you need to reserve in advance.
FREE Things to do at the Library for Adults
If you’re ever bored, looking to learn something new, or wanting to build a skill, the library is a great place to start. As with family programs, some of these activities require pre-registration and are limited to a certain number of people.
- Learn a new skill, such as the game of chess, playing a musical instrument, or using a 3D printer.
- Join a craft group or class, share projects with like-minded people, and make new friends.
- Upgrade your technology skills, learn how to use a tablet computer or new software application.
- Take a genealogy class and trace your ancestry.
- Workout with yoga, Zumba, step, aerobics and other classes.
- Take classes to help you write your first novel or just bone up on communication skills.
- Print or copy documents, laminate pages, use bookbinder or a 3D printer.
- Meet authors, artists, musicians, and more at performances and book reading events at the library and around the community.
- Join a book club at the library, or get tips for starting your own club.
- Participate in Seattle Reads (also called the “one book, one city” program) is a special spring-summer book group and reading event where participants throughout the Puget Sound region read and discuss the same book. The book title is announced in spring. Then follows a series of book group discussions in libraries and bookstores.
- Take photography classes, view famous and local photographers work, and get help building your skills
- Get help with practical matters from housing and auto repair to legal issues, income tax filing, and government assistance programs.
- Get help with personal finance, budgeting, and money-handling skills through classes and books.
- Participate in social justice outreach, demonstrations, petition signing, elections and engage with local politicians.
- Get your hands on an Advanced Reader Copy of a book that’s not yet published. Ask your librarian how to take part in this exciting opportunity.
- Take charge of your career. Many libraries offer career counseling, job fairs, and other career development resources.
Free online library activities for all ages
Did you know there are many things you can do online using your local library card without visiting your neighborhood branch in person? For example, you can borrow e-books, take online classes, learn a language at your own pace, prepare for standard tests and certifications, and much more. Listed below, we offer an overview of the free fun things you can do from the comfort of home.
Seattle Public Library (SPL) Cards are available to just about everyone in the Puget Sound region. SPL cards are available to anyone who lives, works, owns property, or goes to school in Seattle, Bothell, or most of King County. You can get an SPL card even if you do not have a permanent address and regardless of your immigration status. An SPL library card is also available to you if you have a current library card from:
- Everett Public Library
- Kitsap Regional Library
- King County Library System
- Pierce County Library System
- Puyallup Public Library
- Sno-Isle Regional Library System
- Timberland Regional Library
King County Library System (KCLS) library cards are available to anyone who lives or owns property in King County (with a few exceptions, visit their website for details). A KCLS library card is also available if you have a current library card from:
- Everett Public Library
- Kitsap Regional Library
- Pierce County Library System
- Puyallup Public Library
- Seattle Public Library
- Sno-Isle Regional Library
- Tacoma Public Library
- Timberland Regional Library
Library ecards are also available at some libraries. Ecards give you access to online services only. It only takes a few minutes to apply for an eCard online; there is no need to visit a branch library. With an eCard, you gain access to online services quickly–often within a few hours.
Summer reading programs at Puget Sound libraries
Any time of year, you can get reading suggestions from the library. However, during summer there are special reading programs for kids and adults that can take your vacation to a whole new level. Here links to library summer reading programs in the Puget Sound region. All libraries are closed on major holidays.
Listed roughly going north to south throughout the Puget Sound region
- Sno-Isle Libraries has a summer reading programs for kids and teens at any of their 23 community libraries, online services, or Library on Wheels. In addition to reading, they have a huge array of activities for all ages.
- Everett Libraries has a summer reading program that includes reading and listening activities for kids and adults, and many other activities on their event calendar.
- King County Public Library system offers a summer reading program with fun for all ages including books, movies, and family-friendly programs. Stop in any time at your nearest library to plan your strategy for a whole summer of reading and fun.
- Seattle Public Library (SPL) offers a summer learning program every June-August. The fun and educational programs support reading for fun over summer, especially for youth experiencing barriers, and a free Summer Action Guide filled with puzzles, games, and activities.
- Kitsap Regional Library has a summer reading program plus projects, classes, and events to inspire and challenge you all summer long.
- Pierce County Library (PCL) has a summer reading program complete with a variety of fun events and prizes for tiny tots, kids, teens, and adults. They offer story times, reading logs, read-a-thons and more.
- Timberland Regional Library offers the Universe of Stories reading program including activities, games, entertainment, and more.
- Tacoma Libraries offer a summer reading challenge with reading and activities for kids to adults. In addition to recommended reading lists for every age group, they offer a range of activities.
- Puyallup Public Library has a summer reading program with events and activities for all ages.
Freedom to read what you want: Banned Book Week
Intellectual freedom—the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular—provides the foundation for Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event held during the last full week of September.
ALA BBW highlights the benefits of free and open access to information by drawing attention to the harms of censorship. The annual event spotlights actual or attempted banning of books across the United States. The event stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them.
Below (in no particular order) we list a few books cited on these lists. Some titles are classics or children’s books. Some may be books that you have read. Find lists by decade of the most frequently challenged books provided by ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF).
Examples of banned book titles
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
- Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
- Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
- In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
- Where’s Waldo?, by Martin Hanford
- James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
- The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
- Ulysses, by James Joyce
- The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
- Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling
Calendar of literary events
Find author readings, book sales, and other literary events in the calendar below.
Featured Events are list first each day, highlighted by a photo. Featured events are unique or annual events that we or our advertisers don’t want you to overlook.
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
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Saturday, December 9, 2023
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Tuesday, January 2, 2024
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Tuesday, January 30, 2024
Thursday, February 1, 2024
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Thursday, March 28, 2024
Saturday, April 13, 2024
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Saturday, May 11, 2024
Sunday, November 24, 2024
But wait, there’s more!
- Independent bookstores are key to Seattle’s literary scene
- Find free and cheap things to do every day on the Greater Seattle on the Cheap calendar.
- And here’s a list of 101+ always free things to do for fun.
- Visit the Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page and choose from a menu of free and cheap activities in the Puget Sound region.
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