Your Local Library: Netflix for Books

I’m an avid reader and have spent far, far, far too much money in the big box bookstores and used bookstores over the years.  During the summer, I can easily read several books in a week, and if I’m doing research, I’ll run through five to six in a day.  Buying all those books can lead to considerable expense! 

Before I started paying off my credit cards, I tried to limit my book spending to $50 a month.  In reality, I’d slip into a bookstore for a quick pick-me-up and charge $20 here and there.  Anytime “Amy’s new thing” required books, I wouldn’t count it into my book allowance.  Often, on my $50 shopping trip, I’d squeeze in something else and end up with $60 or $75.

These days, I look to our library first.  At first, I just picked up what looked interesting on the new release shelves and decided I wouldn’t be able to read the really popular books while in debt-reduction mode.  I’d stroll past a bookstore in the airport and linger over new titles as if they were forbidden fruit.  I told myself, “it’s only temporary — you’ll be out of debt soon.”

Now, though, I’ve discovered our local library’s online consortium.  Our library is one of 71 throughout the state that is linked together.  So, if I look for a book through my local library’s online catalog, it’s linked up with the catalogs for all 71 library systems.  I was thrilled to discover that when I place a hold at my local library, I’m in the queue for copies from all over the consortium.  That way, even if I’m number 82, there are enough copies circulating that I’ll get it fairly quickly.  I get an e-mail when a book is in, and all the books are shipped to our library.  All I have to do is pick it up and return it to my local library.

So, now I’m using my library the same way I use Netflix.  Two weeks ago, I skimmed the bestsellers on Amazon and read through the book reviews on NPR and the Washington Post.  I put about a dozen books on hold through my library’s website, creating my own little book “queue.”  I won’t necessarily get them in the order I want, but my odds of getting something good fairly quickly have increased considerably.

Sure enough, over the past two weeks, I’ve read the new Jennifer Weiner and Marion Keyes (two of my favorite ‘chic lit’ writers).  I’ve read several NPR picks for summer reading and have Ethan Canin’s America America at home.  I’m doing fun research on American cooking, so I have a facsimile of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796).  In my “queue,” I’m waiting for My Stroke of Insight by Jill Taylor Bolte, MFK Fisher’s How to Cook a Wolf about cooking during World War II, and Jonathan Miles’s Dear American Airlines.

I love that I can keep my reading current for free!  Plus, I’m able to track down all sorts of interesting things that the big box bookstores can’t carry.  Our small-town library is clean, friendly, and very convenient.  I can walk there on a nice summer afternoon or stop by on my way home from work.  They even have a summer reading program for adults, which is so cute!  It reminds me of how much I loved the library’s reading program as a kid.  The website helps me keep track of what I have out, and I can renew things online.  So far this summer, I haven’t paid a single fine.

So, if you’re an avid reader and trying to be more frugal, check into your library’s hold system.  If it’s as efficient as ours, you can easily create your own Netflix for books!

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10 responses to “Your Local Library: Netflix for Books

  1. i’ve lived in my current town for 4 years and never been to the library here. heck…i don’t even know where it is! how embarrassing! before losing my job and getting on track with the frugal lifestyle, i would spend a ton of money on books. i’m having a hard time switching my mentality to not OWNING books. i love having a bookcase full of books. even if i’ll never read them again. so for a start, I joined Paper Back Swap to get rid of some of the books that it didn’t pain me to part with (haha). Maybe after i get used to THAT, I will sell the rest of my books for some cash and look for the library.

    It’s hard for me to let go. It’s like i’m attached to the books…

  2. mydailydollars

    I know the feeling Tiffanie! Good books really do feel like friends, and it’s nice to visit them. Now, I just visit them at a separate location. 🙂 We still have two lovely bookcases at home, but I’m much choosier about what goes on them. 90% of what I read I don’t need to keep; now, I just hang onto poetry, some reference books, a few hard-to-find things, and art books. Try keeping a reading journal. It’s an inexpensive way to remember what you’ve read. I did it for a while as I eased myself out of the book-buying habit.

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  4. threadbndr (karla)

    Our regional library will even mail the books you’ve reserved to you! Talk about easy. You have to pay to mail them back if you choose to (or you can drop them by). I’m lucky that I’m only a mile and a half from the MAIN library. Sometimes something I want is at a branch or out on a bookmobile instead of being checked out. There’s only a 24 hour delay on those!

    Also look to your library for books on CD and also video (tape or DVD). We have a good selection of both. Your tax dollars support your local or regional public library – get your money’s worth!

  5. I love my county library! I usually go there once a week to pick up the books that I have reserved. Aside from books, I also borrow music, videos, audiobooks, etc. I love, love, love it!

    If I’m on a roll though, and I have several books to share with other people, I’ll make sure to join Paperback Swap. It would be nice to have other alternatives for reading books.

  6. mydailydollars

    I agree, threadbndr and Faye! It’s so cool how much more is available from libraries than just books. I recently heard about a county that lends cake pans. Now, that’d be a cool addition!

  7. I have 12 books/books on tape/dvds/videos/cd’s checked out at the moment…
    And in my queue are 20 more items, (I’m allowed up to 25) ranging from first on the list to 32nd… And as I am signed up for emails, as soon as they arrive in my local library (10 blks from my house) I receive an email. Plus they email me when I need to renew or return items also!

    Online I search the ‘new listings’ and just order up whatever seems interesting. It’s a fantastic system! I also use the paperback swap – no checkin or out – no time limit – if I am traveling and don’t want to worry about getting the books back on time.

    Sometimes I suggest books they don’t have. If they buy the book, then I get it first!!! That has been very exciting! Nice of them to do that for me.

    Our coastal network covers 4 counties, but I’m not sure how many libraries that includes – and yes, it’s all free….. except for the property taxes I pay…. but I get way more than my money’s worth from it also! I highly recomment it!

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