While attending a free library event, I checked out valuable information resources that could save time and money. Free car repair manuals, do-it-yourself roof repair guides and language lessons are all available with a few keystrokes, according to Ellen Book, branch manager of the Pinecrest Branch Library.
That free database is not unique. Across the country, public libraries offer vast collections of research and information.
''We try to find what's most useful,'' Book said.
You'll need a library card to tap into most systems. ''Sites like ours are hidden from search engines,'' Book said. "A library card is the gatekeeper.''
For my local system, the link to the database is on the home page and I must enter my card number before gaining access. If you are overwhelmed by the quantity of information, request an online tour from your librarian. Once you're familiar with it, you'll be able to access the database from home, an Internet café or any computer with an Internet connection.
Here's a guide to some of the bytes and bits of information available at most libraries:
• Auto repair center. Do you need information about a specific car model? Illustrated auto guides are available by model and year. There is also advice on specific types of repairs with do-it-yourself instructions.
• Homework help. Encyclopedias, newspaper articles, magazine features and academic journals are available online through the library. I also took an electronic tour of a biography resource center, a census database and an ''Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center,'' with links to a variety of political and social essays, which are ideal for school debates. For high school and adult students, there are guides to help you prepare for college and professional exams.
• Home repair center. Check out the illustrated home center guides, featuring topics from A to Z. For example, the roof installation section is popular and matches a demand that standard books can not fill, Book said. ''We can't keep enough roofing books on the shelf,'' she said.
Here's how to buy my book: