A library card is one of the best prepping tools at our disposal. And it’s free!

A library card is so much more than just a tool to checkout books. Here are some of the uses for this little card that just might convince you to see your library in a different light.

  • Libraries sometimes loan useful household items to people such as tool kits, power washers, table saws, gardening tools, lawnmowers, printers, cameras, laptops, cake molds and more.
  • I’ve borrowed a Kill-A-Watt meter from a library in the past and tracked energy usage of my appliances. This helps me understand how much I am using and know what size generator I would like to buy in the future.
  • If your internet, power, or heat goes out in your house, it could make it difficult to surf the web at home. The library is a great location that is more comfortable and quiet than a coffee shop and allows you to access the internet. If your house burned down, you could have a nice place to go on the internet and file insurance claims or contact loved ones. Some libraries even have internet hotspots you can check out to bring free internet home.
  • You can get books, music, audiobooks, or movies on any topic. Learn how to sew, watch a documentary, get a car or home repair manual, or listen to a prepping book. So many options. Every book that people have recommended on this site that I was interested in was available at the library. Check it out, see if you like it, and then you can buy the book if it looks like a good future reference.
  • If you can’t find a particular item at your library, they often can ask neighboring libraries or even ones in other states. And if what I am looking for is not available at any library in their network, I submitted a request for them to purchase it and they did.
  • Libraries are seeing that people like to stream content, so they now have great music, book, and movie streaming apps to replace things like Netflix or Audible.
  • My library lets people rent out passes to local museums and other events. Fun date night idea?
  • I’ve found online car repair manuals and guides specific to my vehicle, and today I just learned that they have an entire home improvement and craft section with downloadable PDFs on every topic you can think of like how to maintain a garage door, how to replace a ceiling fan, how to start a garden, and even how to sew. They also have guides on small engine repair and legal information.

Example of the car repair guides online:

Auto repair


  • Comments (16)

    • 5

      Oh this is a wonderful idea! I had never thought about getting a Kill-A-Watt meter to check out the actual energy usage of my refrigerator (which I discovered would not work with my Jackery).  During the pandemic I kind of forgot all about our local library which, like yours, loans out all kinds of cool equipment and not just books. Thanks for the reminder to give them another visit!

      • 1

        You’ll have to tell me some of the things you have at your library if you do end up going there again.

      • 5

        Here are some examples from various local libraries – thank you so much for even pointing me in this direction!

        Sewing machines.

        3-D printers. 

        Professional audio and video equipment (that can be checked out)

        High quality projectors and screens that can be checked out (hello neighborhood movie night!)

        Cricut machines (I am unfamiliar with these but they are apparently good for crafts projects)

        Laser cutters – could be used for building some of the tools mentioned elsewhere on The Prepared 

        Festival equipment (really!)  – This is not officially from the library but with an organization affiliated with the library, and allows small groups to check out, at no charge, everything needed to have a small festival like tents, traffic cones, safety vests, folding chairs, even popcorn machines.  Think about having a “Preparedness party” in your neighborhood where you bring your neighbors together to learn about emergency response. 

        So – great idea for a thread, Robert! I had no idea all of these resources were available to me and would not have gone looking without your prompt.  I may even ask my local library to put something together for preparedness month next year, like a special reading group, book displays, and maybe encourage them to offer equipment rentals that are more preparedness related (I will have to think about what those might be!)

        My neighborhood has plenty of low-income families, and I would love to sponsor a library thing where if a kid reads a book about preparedness (any ideas from the community on what might be child-friendly?), they get a little backpack with a water bottle and flashlight or something.  It pains me that low-income families probably don’t even have three days’ of water stored up, when having that at the ready would do a lot to minimize chaos after disasters and would help so many people.  

        OH! I just had an idea – what if THE PREPARED designed backpack kits like that for public libraries?  And made them available either at cost or at just a tiny profit?  I for one as a member of the community would be willing to buy a certain number for my local library (and who knows, maybe library funds could be available to purchase them? I have no idea how these things work).  It would be a great way to spread the word about The Prepared. Again, the idea would be that a kid would “earn” it by learning about preparedness. And then hopefully the adults in the kid’s life would then go on The Prepared and start building their own adult-version kits.  

        Gotta go to work now and earn money to buy more gear!  Later……

      • 3

        Okay, Robert – one more thing.  It turns out my city (not affiliated with the library) ALSO has a medical equipment loan program. WHO KNEW?  Residents can borrow canes, scooters, benches for tubs/showers (so people who need to sit to shower after an injury), crutches, “grabber” thingies (so you don’t have to bend to pick stuff up) etc.  All for free!

        This is all so awesome. You’ve opened up a whole world to me that I did not know existed, of ways to help myself and others at no cost. 

      • 3

        YAY! I’m glad someone else is all library excited like I am 🙂

        You have quite the nice setup where you are! That’s way more than I have at my library.

        Sewing machine – great way to repair some clothing or gear and see if you can handle such a machine before buying one

        3D printer – I’m sure there are some prepping things you could make with that.

        Cricut machine – My sister has one and it’s pretty easy to use. Download the app, import your picture or text, and click print. It will print onto vinyl stickers that can be applied for custom shirt, or labels for gear.

        Medical equipment – AWESOME! I was on crutches before and it was a one time expense and then donated once I got better. Would have been great if I could have just borrowed some for a few months instead.

        From what I’ve heard, libraries love people getting involved and probably would love that prepping for kids activity. 

      • 1

        “what if THE PREPARED designed backpack kits like that for public libraries?”

        My company provided employees with this $77 kit from ReadyAmerica.

        1 Person Deluxe Emergency Kit (3 Day Backpack)

        This smaller $16 kit might be a better option for a library event.

        Emergency Survival Essentials 1 Person 1 Day Value Kit

    • 3

      I’ll also add that a local library card may also give you access to other libraries in your area – for example, if you have a library card in Pennsylvania that is part of the ‘accessPA’ system, you can also get a card from the Free Library of Philadelphia. FLP has a bigger online presence than my local library.

      • 3

        I want to try and get a library card in a big city like that so that I could get access to their large online presence. The larger the city, the more tax dollars and resources they seem to have.

    • 3

      My library has been handing out free N95 masks and Covid antigen tests. 

    • 2

      Great thread! To your point about apps, Robert, someone just convinced me to try Libby again… I found it underwhelming when I first used it (few book options, long waits), but I think that was just because I lived in a relatively small community when I first tried it and the library system doesn’t have as many bells and whistles (or, you know, books). When I logged on as a resident of my current city, I was blown away by how many ebooks I could get, as well as magazines and audiobooks. My friend told me that the app also lets a person share their library access with a friend, so if you don’t live in a place with a great library system, it’s possible that all you need is a friend who does!

      • 3

        I haven’t dived too far into various library apps, but I’ll share my experience that I’ve had with them. My library works with the below three apps even though they only advertise on their website being compatible with two, so try them all out. And when if you ever move to a new city, keep your old library card number because you can still plug it into these apps and access their content from both your old library and your new one.


        This is my favorite library app because you don’t have to put items on hold and wait for a digital copy to become available. The app layout is clean, fast loading, and easy to navigate. Whenever I try and borrow a digital book/movie/audiobook I try Hoopla first.

        Axis 360 

        Seems a bit more dated in it’s user interface than Hoopla. You do have to wait on hold for someone else to be done with the digital content that they have checked out. And I’ve ran into some issues with audiobooks not saving where I left off and then I have to listen to things over again until I can get to the place I was at. I’ve fixed this by clicking the bookmark button and forcing it to save it’s place and not relying on the auto-save feature. Axis 360 seems to have more selection and availability over Hoopla.

        Libby (previously known as Overdrive)

        I haven’t spent too much time with this app yet because it doesn’t seem as user friendly as the others. At least not what I am used to. It seems like the app developer wanted to rethink what a library app should be and it probably just will take some time getting used to it. I do like the ability to sign into multiple library accounts at the same time, like from an old library and your current library and have access to the content of both libraries at the same time. Hoopla and Axis 360 only let you sign into one account at a time.

    • 2

      Thanks for sharing, Robert!  Lots of practical value in a library card.  Not surprisingly, a library card was the 2016 Backpacking Gear Pick of the Year, for many of the exact same reasons why library cards are relevant to prepping.

    • 2

      Wow that’s pretty cool. Libraries have a lot more going on than books I guess.

    • 3

      I’m currently taking ukulele lessons at my library. With a ukulele checked out from the library! I think being able to make music, however amateurly, is important to being prepared, too. I muse, if there’s a nuclear war I hope I’m at the library–and my glasses don’t break. Super happy to be here!

      • 1

        I can’t remember which movie I was watching, but it was some WWII film and people were all miserable in their community bunkers and just crying and thinking of their homes being destroyed while they hear the bombings going on up above. Then the young teenage girl with the violin starts playing and everyone focuses on her and it lifts their spirits. Music definitely is a powerful way to be prepared, and that is great that you have the resources to learn that skill.

        I’m also happy to be here! It’s a great site from what I’ve seen so far.

    • 1

      I am going to check out my library this week!