Monday, May 10, 2010

Are you taking advantage of your library?

You should be! I am constantly dismayed by how many of the customers at my public library are unaware of the wide range of wonderful services we offer. I do my best to spread the word, but so many people tend to come in, get the books they're looking for or use the computers, and then leave. I can't imagine why they don't stop by the reference desk to chat with me so I can tell them about all these wonderful things. It's baffling.

Is it possible that your library offers services you don't know about or have never bothered to look into?

Let me tell you about one that I adore. I used it all the time, and I love it.

My library subscribes to a database called Overdrive. I can go to my library's website, click on the Overdrive link from the database section, and from there I'm taken to a site that looks a bit like a library catalog and a bit like an online bookstore. Overdrive offers ebooks to read on your computer, videos to watch on your computer (or transfer to your television, if you have that kind of setup), and, best of all (for me) downloadable audiobooks. And they are all free services that you, as a library card holder, can take advantage of. Free audiobooks!

My library may only buy one or two copies of a particular audio book, so if they are checked out, I'll have to put a copy on hold, the same way I do for a physical book. When my turn comes, I get an email, and I have three days to pop on over to the website and check out the title. I can check out a total of 10 audiobooks on my account, and I can determine the length of the checkout period (one, two, or three weeks). I download the titles to my computer, and then I transfer them to my iPod. The site has little icons that indicate which sort of device is compatible for each of their downloads, so it's easy to tell what will work and what won't.

Overdrive even allows you to compile a wishlist, which I love! That way I can space out the books I check out, and I always have some waiting in the wings. Audiobooks are a great way to liven up mindless chores like washing dishes or folding laundry, and I love having a book to listen to when I'm working out or walking the dog. I do use Audible for those audiobooks that are not available at my library or through Overdrive, but what a bargain to be able to get so many as part of my library's borrowing privileges.

You may be wondering what happens when the expiration date arrives. Well, if it's on my iPod already, it's not going to suddenly vanish or anything. It'll be there until the next time I sync my iPod. Then it will vanish. So the only downside is that if you are "overdue," you're not going to be able to update your podcasts or music until you finish your book - or check it out again.

So, what are you waiting for? Why not stop by your library's website to see what gems you might be missing out on? You might be in for a few surprises.


  1. I just discovered that service myself through my local library. I've just gotten myself an e-reader and wanted to find out if they loaned e-books.

  2. Elena - It depends on what items your library has contracted to have available through the provider. Ours does carry ebooks, and there is a link on the site to to an extensive list of different e-readers that are compatible. You'll have to let me know how it goes - I haven't taken the plunge to the e-reader yet, but I'm tempted, particularly when I'm trying to fit tons of books into my bag when I go on vacation!

  3. My library has that service too! It's such a cool one to have, but sadly I rarely listen to audiobooks.

  4. I took over hubby's ipod so I can listen to audio books. I tried listening straight from the computer, but the volume was only good in one spot. I usually have two downloaded at a time. When mine expire I have to manually delete them from the ipod, but they do dissappear from the computer.

  5. Awesome, you're a reference librarian!! I'm at the halfway point of my schooling now and trying hard to decide whether to focus my job search on reference careers or something in the technical department. I love cataloging, but with RDA replacing AACR2 I'm a little hesitant.

    Anyway, Overdrive(!!) Yes it is such a fantastic service, I noticed recently that our public library has posters by the computer stations and by the audiobook racks advertising Overdrive - it seems like a great way to let patrons know about it.

  6. you will be happy to know that in the first week in Arizona I got my library card! I use my local library all the time, though I'm disappointed by its lack of non-fiction and what it has seems a bit right wing (surprise surprise in Arizona).

  7. Jenny - Well, I'm glad to hear you will be able to use the service if you ever decide to listen to audiobooks more often!

    Heather - I tried on the computer, too, but I felt too chained to it, as you say. Also (but this was a while ago) it wouldn't remember my place if I closed the window. But maybe they've improved on that.

    Joanne - I work at a public library, but I did the school library media specialization in library school, which is still an MLS but, since I had my teaching certification already, I thought might be a good idea to have. I'm not ready for fulltime work, because of the kids, but one day I might take the plunge into school libraries. The cataloging change will be interesting - I guess all that knowledge I crammed on AACR2 will be totally obsolete soon. I'll be interested to know what you eventually decide to focus on. I love being a children's librarian at a public library - but we are going through a RIF and a lot of changes now, so we'll see how things turn out in the next few weeks. It's very "pressureful," as my 9-year-old commented to me the other day. :p

    Virginia Gal - I'm so not surprised about you getting a library card right away. You are one of the biggest library supporters I know! Too bad about the political slant. Public libraries should be committed to providing a balanced collection, whatever the political makeup of their specific community.


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