Friday, May 27, 2016

10 Insider Secrets Librarians Only Tell Their Friends

Today's post is about 10 insider tips that librarians share with their friends. Not that we don't want to tell patrons about these options, but they're more useful when discussed at a time when it is appropriate to know.

These tips all work for the libraries in my region; I don't know if they work at every library. However, it might be worth your time to call and find out. If you know of other great tips, please share in the comments!

1. Yes, you probably DID return that book

We're checking in and out a million books a day, so your book could be missed due to human or machine error. It happens more often than you know, so we're all very nice about this. If it happens to you, just let us know. We always double check the shelf and return carts. If they are there, we'll clear it off your account. If not, it is probably lost in your car. ;-)

2. Never pay a fine!

Check to see if your library or surrounding libraries offer fine free days. In my area, we have fine free Wednesdays at one library and fine free Fridays at another. Depending on how many items are late, it might be worth the longer drive. Many libraries also offer Fine Amnesty weeks, usually around the holidays (like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Library Appreciation Week, and around Summer Reading). In our area, you bring in can goods to clear the fines off your account any time during that week.

3. Order online, pick-up at any library

Everyone has time for the library! We are open nights and weekends, more hours than your pharmacy and banks. You can "order" (we call them requests) in the comfort of your home and have the materials delivered to any library of your choice. (Want to use the library near your work? Sure!) You'll get an email when they are ready and have seven days to come and pick them up. If you are taking care of small children and find it overwhelming to browse our shelves while keeping an eye on the kids, use this handy feature! Do your browsing at home, come for the programs and toys, and then visit the Circulation Desk to find your books waiting for you.

4.  Keep e-books for longer than 2 weeks

The worst part about our e-books is that, if they are popular, you have to go on the holds list. When it finally arrives, you might not have time to actually read it. One trick, though, is to download the book and turn off your wi-fi. It won't be deleted until you connect to the internet again, so it is yours until then! (No guilt, too! Since it is an ebook, the next person will still get their copy on time.) Granted, many people read on their phones and internet is a necessity, but it works great if you have another device that you can sacrifice the internet for a few days, or however long you need.

5. Get a museum* pass from any library near you

Your library's museum pass is checked out for the day you want it? Call your surrounding libraries and see what their policies are with museum passes. Some may allow anyone (not just residents) to put a hold on them. Others may allow you to check it out the day you want it, if it is still available. * Librarians also tell their friends that "Museum Passes" is the catchphrase for lots of fun places around the area, not just museums. Think aquariums, zoos, parks, farms, and more!

6. Donations may not be added to library's shelves

Many people assume their book donations are automatically added to the library's collection. Librarians look at a lot of factors when adding to the collection and for one reason or another (duplicates, condition, patron interest, etc.), they may decide to not add the book. For libraries with a very limited book budget, donations may be very vital to their operation. But if they have a healthy book budget, chances are, they already purchased a copy of most donations. If that is the case, many libraries automatically put donations into their annual book sale. You're still supporting the library since the library or Friends of the Library benefit from the profits, but if you want your children or teen books to get a lot of use, you might want to first offer them to schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, or daycare centers.

7. Every library has a different collection.

Every library is different. Some have special collections -- board games, Wi-Fi hotspots, seed exchanges, cake pans, etc. Some have special technologies you can use like 3D Printers, sewing machines, video equipment, and more. And some specialize in a specific genre or type, like graphic novels, video games or audio books, providing you with a larger selection to browse. So, get to know all of your libraries you are willing to drive to and see what they have to offer. If your library is on the same network, your current library card will work for check out. If not, they may allow you to make another card there, for free or a small fee.

8. Every library offers free programming, open to the public. (edit: most events are open to the public within 24 hours of the start time.)

You do not need to be a resident of that library to be able to attend a library's programs. So, when you are looking for something to do, check out their online calendars. Sure, every library may offer story time, but if your library offers it on the day you are working, your neighboring library may not! Adult programming can vary widely, and who doesn't like a free movie night?  If you are a caregiver, check out the Macaroni Kid website which pulls all regional kid programming into one calendar for you. Edit: Some libraries do reserve their programs for their residents, but many of them will allow outside patrons to attend if there are open seats within 24 hours of the program start time. Thanks, Peggy, for pointing this out! 

9. If you can't find it on Google, ask your Reference Librarian

These information professionals know how to find anything, especially answers to tough questions. If you want to know something and Google isn't giving you the answer (or, maybe, too many answers and you're now confused), come see a Reference Librarian. It doesn't matter if you are trying to find the name of a toy you played with in the 1950s, looking for scholarships, getting started on your genealogy, or trying to find the perfect cheesecake recipe -- they can get the answer for you. Personally, I think they are better than Google since you know whatever they come back with is *THE* answer you needed. Think of them as your personal information assistants.

10. Can't find what you want? Ask for it.

Libraries are now connected together and share their collections via interlibrary loans. Chances are very high that if your library doesn't have it, you can request it from another library. But if you can't find it anywhere, you may ask your library if they would be willing to purchase it. Many librarians are happy to do so because it is a guaranteed circulation. We like when our materials circulate and we like happy patrons!


  1. Number four is incorrect. code is actually built into the file itself which will make it expire regardless of whether you are connected to the internet. In addition? By suggesting this you are encouraging people to break the terms of a contract. That said, if you are using overdrive usually you can go into your settings and change the default from two weeks to three weeks.

    1. It might depend on what program you are using, because it has worked for me before. It is only a temporary hack since when you turn the wi-fi back on, it goes away. Just a helpful solution if you are close to finishing something, but I definitely encourage talking to your local library to see if that's a possibility!

    2. Are you talking about 3M ebook collections, Jess? Because Thomas is correct about Overdrive collections.

    3. I have done it with OverDrive, but it was through the Kindle App, not the OverDrive App. I haven't done it recently, so I will test again and see if it still works. It'll take a few weeks, since you can't hurry the expiration. ;-)

    4. I agree, number 4 is incorrect. The next person in line WILL NOT still get the ebook if you have it. We are only licensed for so many copies, similar to print books. You have to wait until it's returned. I'm pretty sad this article encourages dishonesty. How happy would you be to wait for a title, as someone is trying to cheat the system? Hmm?

    5. Hi Lisa, I agree with you that if you return the ebook early, the next person will get the ebook early. However, ebook programs are designed to automatically expire on patrons' online accounts (no matter what app you are using), so it is not dependent on people having to remember to "return" it for the next patron to get it. Which is good, since some patrons are just learning how to use the system and we'd be in trouble if they accidentally forever held onto a book because they didn't know how to return it.

      The system we are using is already imperfect. We wouldn't need this hack if patrons had control over when they receive the ebook. Even if you look at how many people are on the wait list and multiplied it by 2 weeks, you wouldn't be right. Some people never download the book, others only keep the book for 1 week, and others return it early. It makes me sad when we lose patrons because they are frustrated with this system. I would prefer to tell them to turn off their wifi for a few days, and be happy. (One could argue the same thing happens with interlibrary loans, but you usually get those for three weeks and can renew them for 3 more weeks. Ebooks default to one week, and you can only extend it an extra week. Some people need more than a week to finish a book.)

      As other people pointed out, this wifi trick may not work on OverDrive's App. I don't use the app, so that could be right. But it has worked on external apps, which don't normally delete items due to a specific time period and are designed to work with no wifi, only syncing up to your online account when you're back online. It is a hack, but it comes with huge costs -- the patron sacrifices wifi to keep the book longer. As soon as they turn it back on, the book will be gone. As it should be.

      I am glad that we offer ebooks in libraries and I am not advocating for people to keep books. I just acknowledge that we have an imperfect system that isn't patron friendly. This trick will tip the scale back in our patrons' favor, which might make a world of a difference.

  2. I'm a retired librarian, and it's all true!

  3. Just pay your fine. We check out a book for 3 weeks and auto-renew it twice as long as no one has requested it. Yes, we have fine forgiveness periods every year. The library is still the best deal in town.

    1. Wow, that is a great service with the auto-renewing! Paying fines is definitely the easiest way to stay on top of it all and I'll never stop someone from doing it. However, I have met people who are embarrassed that they have fines and will never return back to the library. For these patrons, it is vital that they know about the fine forgiveness periods. It makes me sad when we lose patrons.

  4. Most of this I knew - except the ebooks - thanks to wonderful local librarians and the fact that I ask lots if questions.

  5. 2, 3, and 5 are not true at our library. We are a very small rural library, and do not (at this time) have fine amnesty days or museum passes. We are also right on the state line; while patrons can arrange to pick up materials at any library on our side of the line, we can't send them to a library on the other side of the line, even though it might be closer for the patron.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Nancy. Yes, the rules are different at every library, but it doesn't hurt to ask. :-) Some libraries will allow out-of-state people to get a library card if you pay a fee (since they don't pay taxes), so it might still be worthwhile to ask. I've noticed a lot of talk about libraries not offering museum passes, so I intend to investigate why that is. Do you know?