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  • Diana Schneidman

How to get as many books as you could ever want for FR*^!

It sounds too good to be true. It sounds like the emails we receive several times a day, seven days a week.

But it is true! I save thousands of dollars every year by borrowing most of the books I read from my public library rather than purchasing them.

Now for the specifics:

If you are a book lover like me, you constantly discover titles you’d like to read. I spend a lot of time on the Internet picking up titles and authors of interest through ezines, blogs, etc. Also, I scan two newspapers a day (I receive the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune at home) and subscribe to several magazines, finding even more books in the book reviews.

I note the author and title, often on scrap paper or in the margins of the newspapers, and later look them up in an online catalog. (I log in using my library card number and passwords provided by the local library.)

With a few clicks I request titles and arrange for pick-up at the local facility. Some are in the library’s collection, others are requested from the regional library system and yet more are acquired from libraries across the country through interlibrary loan.

Some are available within 24 hours for pick-up. Others won’t arrive for a few weeks if they are already out on loan, but of course the system keeps track of this and I don’t have to request them again.

Some are too new for borrowing or are otherwise unobtainable. Then I send an email to my library providing data on the book and a few notes on why these books are of interest or where they have been favorably reviewed. The library often orders the titles I request, in which case I am first on the list to borrow them.

This process generates a constant supply of interesting books. I can afford to read volumes I would skip over if I had to spend money on them. It saves me a fortune. And it helps maintain order in my house because I am not hanging on to books I have already read. Frankly, this last aspect of borrowing books—someone issuing fines if I don’t return books when I am done with them—is an outstanding benefit.

So check out your local public library. The level of service is tremendous, even as public entities feel financial pressures.

It’s National Library Week!

In a calendar glutted with highly commercialized holidays invented by marketers, nothing much stands out except long-standing religious and patriotic holidays.

Except for one: National Library Week.

I had already decided to write about the wonderful free services you can get from your library when I found out that this is National Library Week (April 11-17). And by the way, April 13 is National Library Workers Day.

So take time this week to check out the services available from your own public library.

P.S. I know libraries aren’t free. Our taxes pay for them. But it feels like free to me.

Originally posted 4-13-10

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