I want to sing the praises of my local library, because lately I've been making heavy use of its wonderful resources. In particular, I'm grateful for two of those resources, which your local library most likely offers as well: ebook lending and interlibrary loan.
I've known for a while that my library participates in several programs that allow patrons to download digital books, but for a long time, I never bothered looking into the details. In January, though, I wanted to read a book that I intended to get from the library, and since it was fairly recent and fairly popular, it occurred to me that I might be able to borrow it as an ebook and save myself a trip. It turned out I was right, and that I could check out the book immediately.
Since then, I've determined that the list of available ebook titles isn't as miraculously complete as my first borrowing experience suggested, but I've still found enough overlap with my interests that I've read five library ebooks so far this year. At my library at least, ebooks show up in a regular catalog search, listed as "electronic resource". You can also search or browse the ebook catalog separately to see what's offered.
I've put in requests to borrow several more ebooks that have waiting lists. Currently, library ebook programs are constrained to operate as if the books were physical, so each library only owns the right to lend a limited number of copies at a time. This means that if you want a hot new release, you may have to wait months for your turn -- but perhaps not as long as if you're trying to borrow the hardcover, since presumably fewer library patrons are using the ebook resources.
If you've already embraced ereading but haven't investigated your library's digital offerings, I encourage you to take a look at your library's website and see what your card gives you access to. You may have to set up an account with an ebook lending program and download a specific application, so there's a little bit of a technological hurdle to overcome, but clear documentation is probably available. I had to spend a few minutes getting started with each of the programs that my library's affiliated with, and none of them work quite as seamlessly as Amazon, but now that I'm set up, it's easy for me to borrow ebooks at any time.
When it comes to physical books, I'm fortunate that my library has an extensive collection of its own but also offers interlibrary loan that gives me access to nearly every book or subject I've ever searched for. Last week, after I finished looking through the books I'd checked out for novel research, I discovered how much more on the topic was available, and I spent a bunch of time in the combined catalog making interlibrary loan requests. When I started getting error messages, I discovered that I'd reached the maximum number of requests, but I figured that would be enough books for now.
Yesterday I picked up my stack of requests, and it was pretty cool to see that some of them came from as far as Las Vegas. So keep in mind that even if your local library isn't particularly impressive, it's probably connected to a network of other libraries that you can easily borrow from through interlibrary loan.
When I was a kid and consumed books at a frantic pace, my local library was a beloved and necessary part of my reading life. As an adult with the financial resources to support a slower reading habit, my use of the library has ebbed and flowed, but I've always been very glad to know the library is available. This year, since I've had an uptick in reading and new novel research needs, I've really been feeling the library love, and I hope I've spread a little of that to you all.
Good Stuff Out There:
→ Daniel José Older covers the Fundamentals Of Writing "The Other": "If your book has two black people in it and both just happen to have superpowers and represent the forces of good and evil, you have a problem. Between these two exceptional, magical characters dwells a swath of fully human, often non-magical but emotionally complex white characters. It doesn’t matter that one of the black characters is a good guy; trust me."