The Power of Free(Gal)

Let’s talk some more about outreach.

No!  Stop!  Don’t run away!  Andrea just gave you some awesome ideas here, so let’s run with the idea that the heavens opened up and granted you access to the schools.


You might have a set presentation that you give to tweens and teens.  I have a few different options.  However, one thing I always, always, always talk about is that you can get FREE STUFF from the library on the internet without ever leaving your house.

This is basically the equivalent of bringing food to a program.  I can’t tote cupcakes around for my school visits, so I offer them free things instead.  Specifically: free music.

My library subscribes to Freegal.  Patrons can also get some free music via Overdrive, but there’s not a lot of variety there.  What’s great about Freegal is they have Actual Music from Actual Artists that teens have actually heard of.  And they get to keep the songs.  And did I mention it’s free?

Yeah, basically none of the teens believe me at first, either.

To access Freegal, all teens need is a library card.  Conveniently, on my school visits I bring what we call Digital Cards, which can access digital content but do not allow a patron to check out physical materials.  So there’s no excuse for teens not to download free, legal music.  This is usually the part of my presentation where someone pipes up to explain how he or she has been illegally doing so and I stop them.

Freegal limits downloads to 5 songs or music videos per week, and you can stream 3 hours per day.  For streaming, Spotify is the better option if you don’t mind ads.  However, if you manage your Freegal downloads correctly, you can download an entire album for free in a few weeks.  Patience, young Padawan.

I know some people are going to ask about pricing for Freegal, and this is where I go ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ because it’s not my purchasing decision.

But the company isn’t really the point of this post: I’m not shilling for Freegal here.  Many libraries don’t have the budget for it, and that’s totally okay!  It’s certainly not a perfect model, but then again, the music industry is just that: a capitalistic enterprise, and artists need to make money somehow.  But: when you go into a class of bored teens who think that the library is boring and you are boring and books are boring and you can offer them some sort of free product that they can access on their phone?  That’s … not as boring.  It can be magazines, books, or music.  It can even be showing them how to use the catalog.  Emphasize “free” and “legal” and also “free” and I guarantee you that they’ll be messing around on their phones trying to download whatever they can.

And here’s a shout out to all the librarians, school media specialists, and teachers on whose devices I have legally downloaded Adele’s “Hello.”  I was wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet?

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