How to take expensive online courses free at the library

woman with laptop computer on couch -- taking online courses?

Taking an online course?

Do you want to take online courses? And know they’re legit? Some companies offer thousands of courses.

You can take as many as you want, if you want to pay $20-30 a month for a subscription.

A bit out of your budget? Maybe you can get around it the same way you can get around other information expenses. Go to the library.

It can be expensive buying all the books and magazines you might want to read. Get them at the library.

Not all authoritative information can be found for free on the web. You can only find much of it through very expensive databases. Which you consult for free at the library. Or at home through a library website.

Many public libraries can offer databases through their state library system. Georgia, for example, offers Public Information Network for Electronic Services (PINES) to state residents.

In North Carolina, a comparable service is called NCLive. Georgia provides a system-wide library card good at any library in the state. North Carolina provides access through local public library cards.

I haven’t looked up every state, but most of them probably offer some kind of home access to online databases to its residents.

Access to online courses works in about the same way. But instead of access to written information, the library provides access to video courses.

There’s an important difference. State library systems make some databases available through service providers like EBSCO. Individual libraries approach companies that offer online courses to get a license. That means fewer libraries provide access to these video courses than to databases.

Online courses and companies that sell them

I came across a reference to working through libraries. has 20 years of experience in online tutorials in business, technology, and creative skills. It has more than 5,000 different courses and offers instruction in five languages. LinkedIn recently acquired

On further investigation, I found that at least two other companies, Treehouse and Gale Courses, already offered courses through libraries before decided to start its program.

Treehouse specializes in coding, building websites and apps, and starting a business. Gale Courses provides a wider selection of courses than either or Treehouse. Besides computers and technology, its categories of offerings include career and professional, personal development, and writing and publishing.

These companies make their profit from selling subscriptions to individuals and corporations. They had to consider whether offering courses free through the library cuts into their core business. They each determined it does not. It provides new customers.

The libraries pay a license. The cost depends on how many people can get access simultaneously. So small libraries pay less than large libraries. Both public and academic libraries offer courses through one or more of these companies.

If you have borrowing privileges at a library, you can take the course from home through its website. That is, if it has a license.

None of these companies’ websites mention their partnerships with libraries. If you’re interested in online video courses, you’ll need to check your library’s website to find if it offers any.

Sources: to offer at-home access for library users / Matt Enis, Library Journal. October 16, 2014
You can probably get free access from your local library / Justin Pot, How to Geek. December 9, 2016

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