Let’s Talk Library Holds

I didn’t start using the hold system at the library until this year.

Wow, OK, that feels good to finally say out loud.

I used the library all the time as a kid but I never used the hold system then because the whole thing with the library was going to the library to pick my books. Then I started making my own money and I stopped going to the library and spending all my money on books, a theme that continues to this day if I’m honest.

I came back to the library when I lost my job the first time as an adult. Suddenly aware of a finite amount of money to my name, uncertain about when I’d find a new job but also aware that I still needed fresh reading material, I started taking the bus to the library. That’s when I started reading Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse and finding all sorts of hidden nonfiction gems. But still, never holds. Again, the whole point was the going to the library.

But this year, obviously, has changed the way we do everything. First we were all cut off from our libraries (I’m assuming that was the same for everyone). Sure, I could have started reading the books on my shelves that I’d bought but I’m a mood reader and suffer from FOMO thanks to #bookstagram so I need new books all the time.

Sure, I ordered some from bookstores online but the postal system was kind of flooded with orders so it took a while to get anything. Did I mention that I don’t read ebooks? Audiobooks neither.

Once the library re-opened, they were doing the curbside pick up thing. So if I wanted books, I had to use the hold system.

It was revolutionary.

I could choose the books I wanted to read and the librarians would make sure they were ready for me. I could check online and see how many books were ready and decide if it was worth the trip or if I should wait a few days. I was checking every day, willing there to be a little green number in the corner telling me that my books were ready for me. I started putting more books on hold, up to 15 at a time. Sometimes I was first in line, other times I was 27 on 8 copies.

I started getting too many all at once. I didn’t have time to read them all. I focused on reading library books but then my purchased books would show up and they’d be ones I was excited to read but I had a time constraint on my library books, ones I’d waited to read for weeks. Other people were waiting for them, renewing wasn’t always possible.

Now I’m looking at Nonfiction November, hoarding planning books to read next month. I still have fiction holds coming in but a finite time in which to read them and hold onto them. I have nonfiction books on hold and I’m hoping they are ready as close to November 1st as possible, understanding that I have zero control over the timing.

So, my question to you all is: what’s the secret to streamlining my hold system?

Now that I work from home, my library isn’t right around the corner anymore. I can really only go on the weekends. I want all the books but understand the book limits. I only have a handful of books out right now and my holds list was short and I probably wasn’t going to get anything until December but I went on a hold spree the other night so I’m very much back in the hole.

Tell me all your tips and tricks. I’m a library hold system convert but still very much a novice.

20 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Library Holds

  1. Wow I feel like I could have written this. My “solution” has been to accept that I’ll probably return stuff unread, and can always check things out again. I say this after going on a huge hold spree yesterday and having more books ready than I can possibly get to. But I love having a lot of choices since I’m also a mood reader, and it’s not easy right now to just go and browse when I need something new.

    I love reading your Nonfiction November posts and am excited for that month!

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one struggling with all the holds! Surrendering sounds like a good plan – kind of like everything else right now!
      That’s the thing with being a mood reader, you need OPTIONS at all times!

      I can’t wait til November! I’m glad you are excited too!

  2. I certainly relate to the obsessive checking of holds! The joy of seeing something is finally “in transit” after months of waiting!

    I don’t really have tips though, I end up in the same boat all the time. But since I do read (and borrow) ebooks and audiobooks, it happens with them too, so I get deluged with physical and digital books that I can’t possibly read in the three week borrowing period. When I run out of time, I just look at it as a chance to trial each book, and if I really want it, I can either buy it, and but it right back on hold…

    • I’m looking at my holds now and one is in transit and three are ready and I am just WAITING for that 4th one to turn green and then I am THERE.

      Tomorrow, probably.

      Ohhh I hadn’t even thought about what happens if ebooks and audiobooks ALSO come through as holds. That’s A LOT.

  3. I loveeeee library holds too! The best solution I’ve found is to login and check it regularly, like you do, to see when you’re getting close to the top of a list and freezing the hold if I have too much else at the moment. Do you have a freeze option? It just pauses your place and passes to the next person, then you can reactivate it when you’re ready. And even though I get excited when I see books are available at my libraries I’ve been adding them to the wishlist or bookbag function just to keep a list of what’s actively available there instead of requesting it right away.

    And I mean, I tell you that as advice, while I also have noted on my schedule that I need to pick up 4 books that are holding for me next week, so…do as I say and not as I usually do. But yay for even using the library — it brings me ridiculous amounts of joy, honestly!

    • This next level of library use is bringing me so much joy. Even with the stress of juggling the holds hahaha

      That’s an excellent suggestion about freezing holds – we do have that option and I always forget to use it!

      I’m about to have FIVE books ready for me to collect…I need to drop off books this weekend or I might wait until next weekend to grab them.

  4. I order books. Read them in order of interest, making sure to read the inter-library ones first. Renew or return. Repeat. I would rather have too many than not enough 😜

  5. I think it depends upon how many books you usually read. I read quite a few, so every month or so, I put four books on hold at the library and then when they arrive I make them a sort of priority, although I occasionally read a purchased book between the library books. After I return my library books I wait another month before ordering anymore, so that during that time I can read my own books. However, I know quite a few people who only get books at the library.

  6. We don’t tend to have terribly long waits for books here. I think at most I’ve had just 2 or 3 people in front of me. But I still get the hold overflow issue because I’m not good at estimating how many books I’ll get to or what I’ll actually be in the mood for. I’ve made peace with the fact that I will be returning some unread, remembering that checking them out in the first place helps the book’s circulation stats. I try to read the more popular books first (ones that tend to have a waiting list) and just check the others out again in the future.

    • I’m jealous of your short wait times! Although in general I’m pretty lucky with my library, some books are just that popular.
      I think that’s the secret — making peace with not being able to read them all. It’s impossible to guess what you’ll be in the mood for and right now my reading is so all over the place that I may not finish any books I start!

  7. Like you, I enjoy browsing at the library and it is something I started missing even before Covid, because I was often just picking up holds so that I was more likely to have time to read what I checked out. The only suggestion I have for trying to avoid returning things unread is to check if you can pause your holds. I sometimes do that once I have enough books out. Like some other commentors though, I’ve mostly just had to accept that I’ll sometimes return books unread!

    Excited you’ll be joining for Nonfiction November again 😀

  8. I love it! A library hold system convert! I’ve been using it forever. Since my kids were little and too impatient to take into the adult section to browse with me. I took them anyway, of course, but it wasn’t long enough. It was easier for me to place holds and then pick them up whenever I was at the library with the kids. And I’ve been using it ever since! It’s the best way to make sure you’re first on the list for all the new books! 🙂
    I confess to using it as a way to remember the books I want to read. And then if they all come at once, and I don’t have time to read them all, I send some back and put them back on my list. Sometimes I feel guilty about it, but then I remember the more library activity the better! Libraries love to show their circulation stats to the gov’t!

    • That is such a genius idea, to have holds ready while you browse with your kids! I also like the idea of using my holds as a kind of TBR. And of course, you’re right, just taking books out helps the library. I’m *always* down to the help the libraries!

  9. I love this! I usually put in holds for books that are popular so that I can get a spot in line. I do miss perusing the bookshelves and just choosing random books no one has ever heard of, though. At my library, we are able to pause holds for a certain amount of time, so if I’m not ready for my holds, I just pause them until I feel like reading them! (Also, this year has been so crazy and I totally forgot about Nonfiction November – thank you for reminding me!)

    • I like when I do that and then I forget about it and the hold comes in and it’s like a gift to myself from past me.

      I definitely need to start using the pause feature!

      Time has no meaning anymore. I feel like I’ve hoarded so many books “for Nonfiction November” that I’m going to have to quit my real job so that I can read them all!

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