Education isn't always free, but some area libraries want to make it cheaper.
The Aiken-Bamberg-Barnwell-Edgefield Regional Library system offers a testing database that allows access to electronic practice tests, including the GED, the SAT, the Graduate Record Examination and the Law School Admission Test.
The database is part of the libraries' Testing and Education Reference Center, which gives members access to scholarships, colleges and other educational information.
The library system pays $5,000 annually, Director Mary Jo Dawson said.
"Our reference staff felt like we needed to have an online resource for people who are preparing for a new career, and also it provides information on scholarships, colleges and other types of schools," Mrs. Dawson said.
Test prep books usually cost between $30 and $100, depending on the test. Now high school students who need SAT or ACT help don't have to sign up for expensive courses with private vendors, Mrs. Dawson said. Recent SAT prep at the University of South Carolina Aiken cost $110.
The database works with most computers, so residents in rural areas can access tests from home.
While the service has proved valuable to patrons in the four-county South Carolina system, the East Central Georgia Regional Library didn't see a similar response.
It offered GED testing software almost three years ago, but it wasn't used so the service was discontinued, reference librarian Nancy Carver said.
"The service was amazing, and those books cost over $60, but it just wasn't being used," she said. "We have several reference books, but there's no way to have every book for every test unless you do something like this database."
Residents can check out test prep books, Mrs. Carver said.
"We can never have enough of those books, and typically a lot of the books don't come back, so we have users put down a deposit," she said.
In South Carolina, nonresidents of the library system's four counties, including Georgians, can become members for an annual fee of $20.
Reach Julia Sellers at (706) 823-3424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Aiken-Bamberg-Edgefield Regional Library system offers a free testing database. To access it, go to www.abbe-lib.org.
- Information on scholarships, colleges and other types of schools
- GED practice tests and electronic versions of Peterson's popular test preparation books
- Test preparation resources for SAT, PSAT, ACT, GRE and LSAT
- Career certification practice tests
MEMBERSHIP FEE: People who live outside the counties served by the library system, including Georgia residents, can get access to the database and other library services by paying a $20 annual membership fee.