Today more than ever, the library is a cost-effective, budget-friendly way to entertain the entire family.

Now more than ever, families are looking for ways to save money. But our kids (and we as parents) definitely enjoy having new books to read and new DVDs to watch. It's also nice to be able to take our kids somewhere fun without breaking the bank. Below are 7 reasons why it's the perfect time to check out your local library:

Like grandchildren, library items can be borrowed and loved and then sent back when you're done. This really helps cut down on the clutter in your home. Take your own canvas bags to tote your finds.

Internet access and a cure for cabin fever. Those who don't have Internet access at home rely on the library to keep in touch, keep informed and play games, among other things. Your local library is also a great cure for cabin fever. It provides a safe place to hang out with your kids and is a great way to get out of the house in rainy weather or during school breaks.

Buy it or try it first? I say try it! Why buy brand new when you can check out so many titles for free? It's helpful to be able to preview CDs and books on tape and to read books on a trial basis. If you fall in love with it, then you can buy it from a book or music store. If your library doesn't stock something you'd like to read, they can either order it or use the Inter-Library Loan system.

Read magazines and newspapers at the library (yet another way to keep clutter under control in your home) to keep current while your kids play, do homework or check out their own items. Many libraries even let you check out magazines. Some libraries have meeting rooms where you can escape alone or with friends to scrapbook or hold a book club meeting.

Activities. Libraries are well known for educational activities for adults and children alike. Story, art, puppets and music are popular themes for kid activities, while adults can drop in for seminars and classes on topics like finances and keeping kids safe on the Internet. Many libraries also have writing and art contests and activities to correspond with holidays. Check out Columbus Parent Magazine's Out & About Calendar for what's going on in May.

Really convenient. If you have Internet access at home or work, it's easy to put library items on hold, discover new items and renew items you already have but aren't quite done with. If you don't have access to the Internet, you can usually still call and renew items and put at least a few items on hold at a time.

You get to keep them for anywhere from a few days (DVDs) to a few weeks, then you can often renew (unless someone else has put a hold on items).

Log on to the American Library Association's website at www.ala.org (or to your favorite library's website) to see some fun events your local library may be planning.

Kerrie McLoughlin is the mother of 4 young children. You can catch up with her at TheKerrieShow.blogspot.com. .