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How to Use Your Local Library to Checkout and Hold Materials Online

Things we know for sure (Hi, Oprah!): 

  • Too many books, not enough time. 
  • It’s easy to forget about a book recommendation. 
  • We love libraries. 
  • Personal book-buying budgets are limited. Or non-existent. 

So, here are a few ways we use our libraries to keep books flowing in and out of our homes. We hope a few of these practices might resonate with you 

Note: Have your library card handy the first time. Hopefully, your library is like ours and allows you to save your number and password/pin. This makes checking out SO much easier for future requests. 

First, find your local library or library system online. If it’s your first time (no judging!), take some time to browse the sections. You might find some nuggets you were unaware existed. Renee’s offers passes to local museums and science/travel kits, and weekly email subscription with upcoming events and new materials…things that were unknown to her before her browse session. 

Next, find the tab directing you to the online catalog. Again, if you have time, you can explore and browse all of the features. Most libraries allow you to search by title, subject, author, keyword, etc. You can typically make decisions about format as well. 

If you already know what you’d like to check out, type in the title and search away. Pay attention to the format of the book listed. You often can choose from eBook, audio book, or physical copy. Renee’s library allows you to place a book in a “basket” (think: Amazon cart, a place to put it so you don’t forget about it or aren’t sure yet), on a list, or just place the hold immediately. It also allows her to see how many books she has currently checked out (with titles and due dates) and books that she’s placed on hold but aren’t ready for pick-up yet.  

Once you’ve selected your books for check-out, you can decide how you want to be notified when they are ready. We like to get ours by text, so if we’re already out and about, we can swing by. Our libraries, like most right now, are doing curbside pick-up. This means you call the number on the sign outside upon arrival and a staff member brings out your requests. The staff in Renee’s town leave them on a bench outside the door in a bag, so there is truly no interaction. 

Bonus info: Many libraries, especially if in smaller towns or rural areas, are part of a larger consortium, which involves sharing library collections. This is a fantastic feature, especially if you’re looking for something that is either really popular or more obscure. For example, the newest Dog Man book comes out. You know your child is dying to read it, but your small, local library only has one copy and the waitlist may be long. However, if your library is part of a consortium, you have access to the collection, possibly speeding up your request. 

We hope this overview nudges you to exploring what your local library has to offer, even if you can’t browse the shelves in-person. Perhaps you’ll find the ease and convenience of online check-outs a great new practice in 2021!

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