I am a great advocate of the public library system. Our local Salt Lake County library system is a great resource for research and electronic media as well as my favorite fiction books. I was excited to pick up two brand new books there over the weekend: Becoming by Michelle Obama, and A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne. Each of these titles was released just a few weeks ago, and now I have my hands on a copy. Absolutely free of charge (as long as we get them back before the due date)!
Using most library systems is fairly simple. Here are a few general tips for how to use your system to the fullest:
1. Use the HOLD system. Each library system might be sightly different, but every location will have an option where you can look up a title online (or even on your phone), reserve a copy, and have it delivered to the location nearest you to pick up. These HOLD titles are reserved in a special area of your library and only you can check them out with your card number. For new titles you may have to wait in a queue if there are a lot of other users who want that title, but I have a tip for that too (BELOW). I have even heard of some cities where you can have books delivered right to your door when they are available!
2. Check out the NEW RELEASE section. In many branches of our library system there are special shelves and displays where they have additional copies of very popular titles. This is a special feature to increase your chance of being able to read some of those hot items. In some cases these might be available to check out, in other cases those special copies might be reserved just to be read on-site. If you like reading at coffee shops or bookstores, try the library reading room. PERFECT!
3. Reserve titles before their release dates. In most cities you can reserve titles online before they are even released. If you read a list of upcoming releases from a website or news publication, don’t wait until you see those on the shelves. You can put a hold on those items and they will be reserved for you as soon as they are published. For example, my wife was excited to read Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. I put a hold on the book two weeks before the release date and we ended up 35th on the list even though it wasn’t yet published! When I checked again a few days after the release date there were 345 people that were on the hold list! Needless to say it was a very popular title, so I was happy to be pretty early on the list, otherwise my wife wouldn’t have gotten that book until next summer!
4. Reading library books helps your favorite authors. You might think that if you check out a book by your favorite author they don’t see any benefit from that because you don’t have to pay anything for the book. I have spoken with several authors though, who say that checking one of their books out at the library can help them out as much as actually buying the book. A library will buy several copies of a new title in order to have it available for everyone who might want it. The number of copies they buy is related to the popularity of the book. One of the most important factors in determining how many new books to purchase is from how many of the authors previous books have been checked out in the past. Want to help a writer? Check out their book at the library.
5. The age of the internet. The library might seem like an old school institution, but they are very up with the times. You can find books and audiobooks online through Overdrive, electronic databases and learning resources, and many other cool things on your library’s website or smartphone app. All you need is a library card number.