This post was originally on my previous blog July 2012.
I am a big fan of our local library in Howard County, Maryland! I love being able to get free books, movies, and music!
The Howard County Library has a great web site, but I’ve notice that there are a number of great features that while not exactly hidden, are not known by many other library patrons. Even if you’re not a Howard County resident, your local library may have these features, or you can request them.
Get Almost Any Book!
The Howard County Library has a lot of great books, but they don’t have everything, of course. If you’re looking for a particular book the obvious first step is to search the library catalog. You can do this from home at http://hclibrary.org, or from the library.
If you don’t find the book in the catalog, the next step is to search Marina. Marina is a searchable network of Maryland libraries. To access Marina, go to the Howard County Library home page and click the “How do I…” pull down. Then select “Use interlibrary loan.” This screen includes information and instructions for Marina. You’ll just need a Maryland library card number for a Marina request, and there is no charge.
If the book is not found through a Marina search, the next step is the last link on that page, “Request form for academic or out-of-state libraries.” Sometimes this is just called ILS for Interlibrary Loan. There is a $1 fee for this interlibrary loan request if they find your item.
Request an Addition to the Collection
There is a form on the library web site under the Contact Us link (top right corner of the page) that patrons can use to request that the county library purchase items not already in the catalog. From the Contact Us Page, click the “Suggest” link under “Make a purchase suggestion.” Then find the item in Amazon.com, and copy and paste the ISBN, publisher and date published from there to the library form.
Another great option with this feature is that you can specify on the form that you would like to be placed on the wait list for this item if they decide to purchase it.
Suspend a Hold Request
I love being able to search for books, movies and CDs from my home computer and place a request so that they’re waiting for me the next time I go to the library. With young children it’s been especially nice to be able to do this as opposed to hunting around the library for items while dragging a small child. Then we can focus our library time on finding children’s books and pick up mine at the circulation desk!
An extra feature available for holds is Suspended or Inactive Hold Requests. When you place a hold request, you can specify a future date that you want the hold activated instead of today’s date. This is great for placing holds on my future book club books or scheduling my book holds so that my reading materials are spaced out conveniently. The best part about this feature is that you continue to move up the hold queue while the hold is suspended, then when it is reactivated, you are at the top of the list or at least closer to the top of the list.
If you have already put a book on hold you can also go to the Hold Requests page of the Howard County Web Site and suspend a currently active hold. Just check the box next to the item(s) that you want to suspend, then click the Suspend/Reactivate Selected button. Enter the date on which you want the hold reactivated. I suggest setting the reactivate date for about 5 days before you need the book to allow time for the library to get it to your branch.
If you want to reactivate a suspended hold before the reactivation date you specified, you can just repeat the above steps and specify today’s date.
Free eBook and Downloadable Audiobook Loans Via Overdrive!
Most Maryland public library patrons can borrow ebooks through their library’s Overdrive subscription. (I was told that the following information applies to all Maryland public libraries with the exception of Prince Georges County which has a separate subscription to Overdrive.)
To access the Overdrive site from the Howard County Library site, click the “How do I…” pull down and select “Find an e-book.” This brings up the Electronic Books and Audiobooks page. This page includes the link to the Overdrive database site, instructions for downloading ebooks to various ebook readers, and information about scheduling One-on-One Sessions to learn about borrowing ebooks from Overdrive. I highly recommend the One-on-One Session. I attended a class version of the session and even though I already knew a lot about Overdrive and ebook readers and picked up some interesting information.
When you’re ready to search the Overdrive database for ebooks or audiobooks, click the “Maryland’s Digital eLibrary Consortium (OverDrive)” link. The Maryland Digital eLibrary Consortium is a group Overdrive subscription for most of the Maryland public libraries (except Prince Georges County as I was told.)
Overdrive allows you to check out 4 items at a time. For each item, you can select a checkout period of 7, 14 or 21 days. Kindle ebooks may be returned early through the Manage My Kindle page on Amazon.com (though if you return too many items early in a short time they will freeze your Overdrive account for copyright issues). You may also place a hold on 4 items at a time on Overdrive. I plan my holds so that I have 1-2 long term holds (long hold lists) and 1-2 short term holds (short hold lists), so that I have something to read while waiting for the longer hold list items.
Following are a couple of the tips that I learned at the “Are You EReady?” class at the library:
- The advantage symbol next to some books means that my county library has purchased extra copies of that item for just the patrons in that county. So if you place that item on your Hold List, you may receive it earlier that it would appear based on the number of people on the hold list.
- It is recommended that you search the Overdrive site through the link above as opposed to searching the Howard County Library catalog web site for electronic materials. The county library catalog is not updated very often, whereas the Overdrive site is always current.
For additional information about Kindles and other eReader devices, please see my page linked from http://tealdragon.net/giftshop.
What is your favorite feature of the library? Were any of these features new to you?
Happy Reading! 🙂