Sometimes you want a book from the library and it simply is not on the shelves. What is a reader to do? Below we list some other options you can consider to find and borrow the materials you want!
If your library does not have the book(s) or other materials you are looking for, you can ask that they search for the material in other libraries and have it mailed to you. Some libraries may charge a nominal fee for this service, but others offer it free. I have had semi-rare books shipped to me from across the country!
Many libraries have combined their systems with other local libraries. When you search the online catalog and don’t see the book you want in your home library, set the search to comb through ALL the libraries with which yours is partnered. If a partnered library has the book, you will be able to borrow it! You should be able to pick it up and return it at your home library, so no travelling for you!
Request a Purchase
If your library doesn’t carry a book or DVD you’d like, you can ask that they consider purchasing it. Their ability to purchase will be determined by how many funds they have left for the year for purchases. However, I’ve found many libraries are very good about trying to buy the materials their patrons want.
Free Cards at Other Local Libraries
If you show your hometown library card to other libraries in your area, you should be able to get a library card from those institutions, as well. Even if you can’t drive to them regularly, you may find that their ebooks, audiobooks, and online databases are useful to you. Other libraries may offer free cards to individuals across the state. I’ve been informed, for instance, that the Free Library of Philadelphia will mail a card to anyone who lives in Pennsylvania. Let us know in the comments if you know of similar programs!
Purchase a Card
If you would like a card at a library that is not local, you can usually purchase one for the year. This may be because you’re doing research at a library out-of-state or because you’d like to use the services of a local academic library. Often these cards run about $40, so this may not be an option for everyone, but I’ve seen some listed for less. I would recommend, for instance, checking out your local community college before another academic institution. Since their mission is to serve the community, they might provide easier access to their materials.
If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, check the library’s online resources. They should have a tab for audiobooks and ebooks that you can search separately from the library catalog. You may also find interesting programs such as free test prep, programs to help you learn a new language, access to Universal courses (which teach anything from soap making to chemistry), and family genealogy resources.
What other services do libraries offer that not all patrons may know about?