Work that library card!

This week, I’m going to show you how to max out your reading enjoyment, cut your Amazon bills, and get onto a first-name basis with your local librarian.

How many of you are like me and want to go get a Brooklyn Public Library card right now just because the card is so cool?

How many of you are like me and want to go get a Brooklyn Public Library card right now just because the card is so cool?

Some of you are freaking out right now because you have library fines (I’ll write about how to avoid them in a later post) or because you had a bad library experience as a child. I’m here to tell you—libraries have changed! I love my library! I can read six books a week on my own. If I bought every book Junior and I read, I would be broke and our house would have probably been featured in the first season of Hoarders. We get books, audiobooks, ebooks, movies, and more out of our local libraries.

No joke, this is what our house would look like if we bought every book we read. We can't afford not to use the library.

No joke, this is what our house would look like if we bought every book we read. We can't afford not to use the library.

How do I find the time to read six books a week? Well, I spend a lot of time reading library books—but I don’t spend a lot of time actually in the library. I sit down at my computer once a week or so and put what I want on reserve. In New York City’s public library system, for example, you can have up to 30 items on reserve at any one time.

Once a week, I go to the library and pick up my items. Some items come sooner, some items come later. Often, a book I want to read is checked out by somebody else. No problem—because I have many items on reserve at any one time. Usually at least two of my reserved items are on the shelf waiting for me to pick them up. It’s like Christmas every time I walk up to the desk—because I never know which hoped-for item will be there.

Reserving items online (you can also do it at the library front desk, but it takes more time) means that a reader isn’t limited to what’s available at any one local library. Reserving items pulls from the entire library system. Is your library mysteriously missing one of the books in a series? No worries. Just reserve it. Yes, you might not be reading that item right away. But are you bothered? No—because your book bag is full of other things you wanted to read!

Is your library missing Trixie Belden #7?? Never fear, the reserve system can help you. And if none of the libraries in your local system have the book, then it’s time to do an interlibrary loan—which I will cover in a later post.

Is your library missing Trixie Belden #7?? Never fear, the reserve system can help you. And if none of the libraries in your local system have the book, then it’s time to do an interlibrary loan—which I will cover in a later post.

How do I know what I want to reserve? I use recommended reading lists. I reserve both items for me and also items for Junior.

The New York Times Review of Books contains some great ideas (and a quarterly review of children’s books), and most magazines have a book review section. My high school journalism teacher highly recommended People’s book reviews. Pick a magazine you like and check out what it recommends. Amazon’s “Frequently bought together” and “Customers who bought this item also bought” links can be a useful tool for seeing what books the people who also like one of your favorite books are reading. Goodreads’ book pages feature a “Readers also enjoyed” link which can provide some good ideas. Once I read a review of something that sounds good, I add it to a running list kept on my computer of books that I want to read.

Here are a few elementary and YA summer reading lists to start off with:

Reserving books online has allowed me to not only read through books in order, but also to do things like

  • stack up different travel books pre-trip
  • make sure that we have enough audiobooks to keep us occupied on long car trips.
  • “Go deep” on a topic--instead of taking out whatever is on my library's shelf, I can pick and choose from all the titles that the entire system has. For this blog, I’ve used the reserve system to have all of the books I wanted to review for a specific post sent to my local library. And the librarians have called me to come pick them up!

Every once in awhile I hit a kink in the system, and have to ask for the librarians’ help. Turns out they love being asked for help obtaining a book. Librarians are experts at finding information and asking them for help tracking down a book gets them excited like nothing else. I once requested a movie, and the next week, my branch’s head librarian came out to let me know that there was a problem with my request. We went over my request, and he discovered that the library’s catalog contained at least two movies with that title, and that a request for the wrong one had been entered into the system. I’ve never seen someone so fired up to right a typo. After issuing a strongly worded promise to rectify the situation, he strode off to his desk with the air of a man upholding Truth, Justice, and The American Way.

I recently read online that Douglas County, Oregon, is closing the last of the county’s libraries. This makes me so sad. According to the article, keeping the library open would have increased county residents’ tax bills only slightly.

An effort to save the libraries through a new property tax failed last November. The Douglas County Library District would have cost property owners in the county 44 cents per $1,000 of assessed property. For a home worth $150,000 that would have been $66 a year.
— Dylan Darling, The Register-Guard, April 1, 2017

By using the reserve system, we get hundreds’ of dollars (literally) worth of books, DVDs, and other items out of our library here every year, and the only thing I can think of is that the residents of Douglas County, Oregon don’t know what they’re missing.