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Library Tips and Tricks

This is a guest post by Sharon Tomasulo, from Library Hungry. Enjoy!

Do you use your public library?  If you’re a serious reader like me—serious in terms of quantity, not necessarily quality—books can be a huge investment.  As Brenda’s pointed out before, besides the money, there’s paper and energy that go into your books. The eReader helps with those problems, but for those of us who read more than a book a week, the cost can add up.


So why wouldn’t you use your library? I suppose if you don’t know the ins and outs, the library might seem too restrictive. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you get the most out of all those free books just sitting around downtown.

The key is to get a PIN, so you can use the online catalog. Sometimes you can request a PIN online, and sometimes you have to go into the library to get it set up, but once you do, you can manage your account from home. What does this gain you?

Let’s say you want to read bestsellers, but you don’t get them at the library because it seems like they’re always checked out. This is what the hold list is for. You can put yourself on the waiting list, so when the book is returned, it’ll be held at the front desk for you. The more popular the book, the more copies the library will have, so I rarely have to wait more than a few weeks.

If you don’t even want to wait that long, here’s one of my favorite tricks. Keep track of your favorite authors—check out their websites, or sites like Amazon or Goodreads—and try to beat the rush to the waitlist, before their new books are even published. It’s not quite the same as waiting in line at the bookstore at midnight with a bunch of kids dressed up as wizards, but I find being the first one on the waiting list for a mega-bestseller brings its own sense of accomplishment.

Sometimes, you even find out about the book before your librarian does. Whether the book is new or just low profile, a lot of libraries are great about ordering books you request. I’ve never made a purchase request—obscure graphic novel, self-published fantasy—that they haven’t come through with. It’s quite possible I owe them an apology for some of the books they’re now stuck with, actually.

And if they can’t buy it for you, they probably belong to a network like the Minuteman Library Network. That’s the catalog for all eighteen bajillion (okay, 40-something) branches in the Boston area. If I ask for a book, it’s sent to my local branch.

Or let’s say I’m really lazy—which is no stretch at all—I can get them to pull the book off their own shelves for me and have it waiting at the front desk. You don’t even have to park your car—just put your blinkers on and run in. (Welcome to Massachusetts.)

If you’re that lazy, I should also let you know that managing your account online allows you to get email notices of upcoming due dates and (my favorite) to renew online. The Boston Public Library now allows you to renew a book for five three-week periods, as long as there’s no one waiting for it. Even our due-date-phobic Pragmatic Environmentalist has no excuse.

Whether you’re green, cheap, or just really lazy, the library website does most of the work, thus making it possible for me to revel in my shameless addiction without bankrupting my family. I am a library addict—but I’m also a very cheap date.


Comment from Todd Kyle
Time May 5, 2011 at 9:24 pm

Thanks for the vote of confidence in the public library! For the record, most of us also carry e-books that you can download from home.
-Todd Kyle, CEO, Newmarket Public Library (Ontario)

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time May 7, 2011 at 9:20 am

Thanks, Todd. That would definitely be the way I’d go. I’ve talked about how to get library books to work on the Kindle in a couple posts.

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