Updated on 06.01.10

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Library Edition

Trent Hamm

A library with an efficient website completely changes how you use the library.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say I’m visiting one of my favorite book blogs and I read about a book that seems intriguing. Rather than buying it immediately, I can follow a nice two-step process to allow me to read it first. First, I hit PaperBackSwap just to see if a copy is floating around there. If not, I hit the website of my local library and put the book on reserve (often, I’m #4 or so in a queue for anything new or popular). When it becomes available, I get an email saying “Stop by the reserve desk and pick up the book!” and boom – I have the book in my hands.

So, yes, on occasion, I do still buy books, mostly ones I know I’ll read and re-read and won’t be available on PaperBackSwap for a long time. But such services allow me to read to my heart’s content without dumping big cash into books any more.

The Benefits of Working from Home This makes a great case for the benefits of working from home for both employers and employees. The only catch is that it requires a very self-directed employee to really work well. (@ workawesome)

The 50-Percent Solution One sentence here really intrigued me: “I picked up the habit of buying multiples of something I like when I was younger.” I picked up a similar habit, actually. I think it was mostly observing that running out of something important can really cause problems, but there are better solutions than “just buy two.” (@ get rich slowly)

America’s Top Stores “Four chains earned outstanding scores for merchandise quality: Costco (watches and jewelry, personal-care items, hardware, home décor, kitchenware, electronic entertainment such as music and DVDs, and sporting goods and toys), Dillard’s (men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing; personal-care items; home décor; and kitchenware), Macy’s (home décor and personal-care items), and Sears (hardware).” That’s an interesting mix. I had some disastrous experiences at Sears about five years ago. (@ consumer reports via consumerist)

Finding Self Employed Health Insurance This is something I’ve looked into over the last several months as my wife and I make decisions about what’s best for our three kids, particularly during their pre-school years. (@ frugal dad)

Eating Yourself Into Debt It’s easy to vastly overspend on food and food-related expenses. It’s not just overconsumption that’s the culprit, either. (@ man vs. debt)

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  1. Greg says:

    Instead of going to the Library website directly, you can search the book in WorldCat (http://www.worldcat.org/), enter your location (if it is not automatically detected), and you will get a list of all (participating) libraries in your geographical area that have a copy of this book. Of course this only makes sense if you live in an area with a high library density.
    The Worldcat catalog contains 1.5 billion items from more than 10.000 libraries all over the world.

  2. Patty says:

    Why don’t you check the library before paperbackswap. That way you can read it and see if its worth having a copy before spending money (or credits) on something not worthwhile?

  3. Lauren says:

    This is also how I preview children’s books I hear about online or see in magazines. If my kiddos love the library copy, then I know it’s worth purchasing for them.

  4. Rianne says:

    Ah hah! And now I understand why you use libraries for new releases! Your hold lists are so short.
    I recently went to reserve a book that came out 6 months ago but was quite popular and the latest in a long series. I was hold #375 or so. Remember this is also 6 months after the book came out. 3 weeks later I was #350. I bought the book.

    I love my public library, 99 branches and 11 million items available. But the demand for new books is too high, if it’s something I’ve been anticipating for a while I would much rather buy it than add another 6 or 8 months of waiting before I get to read it.

  5. Jon says:

    I do the same thing with our local library. Fortunately, I live in a fairly low population density area, and even new books generally have no more than a dozen holds in the queue. If I absolutely must read something the day it comes out, I go by Hastings on the release day and get it for half price. There are very few authors I feel that strongly about, however.

  6. Dottie says:

    When we lived in Orange County (Orlando) I used the library much more than I do now and I truly miss it! I could put a newer release ( or older) on hold via their website and then they would mail it to me. After I read it I would just put it back in the mailer it was shipped in and return it. Postage was already paid. It was the easiest thing around.. and free. Usually took anywhere from a week to three to get depending on the book. However, when we moved to a rural area in North Florida last year I had to find alternatives such as paperback swap or purchase new. The library in this area is not well stocked and does not provide a website. I don’t read as much these days, the cows, chickens and garden take up most of my time now.

  7. deb says:

    I live in a sad place. Our city has decided to close the library as they think it’s too expensive to keep it running with the lower property tax revenue coming in. I’m devastated. I do the same thing – see a book online, reserve it at the library site and pick it up a few weeks later. Right now I have 4 library books at home. I don’t really know what I’ll do next year when it closes, but I know I need to start a savings account for it.

    I have to add that our city leaders are idiots as there are many other places to cut $$ instead of closing the library. We’re already hearing that people don’t want to buy houses here, knowing there won’t be a library in the near future. So, property values will fall even more.

  8. margaret says:

    I live near a small town, so our library isn’t huge BUT we belong to in interlibrary loan system so I can request books on the website and it will get sent to my home library. I think pretty much all the libraries in the northern half of my province are in our system, excluding the city.

    I LOVE SEARS. I don’t know how they operate in the states, but in Canada, they have catalogs, a website, and a pick up location in just about every small town, so you can get a lot of stuff brought to your town that you would otherwise have to travel an hour or more to purchase. And I have had nothing but fabulous service from Sears.

  9. Brad says:

    I’ve actually been doing the same thing with my library and Paperback Swap for a few months now.

    Another nice thing is the southern Minnesota libraries are linked. Thus, I can get a book from another southern MN library sent to my library, just by a click of a button on the web.

    I have quite a few Paperback Swap credits left. I too am only using them for books I know I’ll read over and over and over again for many years to come.

    For books I can’t get through PBS or don’t want to wait, I hold onto Barnes&Noble gift certificates for a long time (they don’t expire). I save the certificates for only those things I really, really, really want.

    I figure it’s only a matter of time before Paperback Swap gets them in. If there’s a book that everyone is reading right now, I’m avoiding reading it then anyhow, so waiting for PBS isn’t a big deal for me.

  10. Margaret says:

    I admit it; I love buying books. According to my records, I spent about $1500 on them last year. $500 of that was paid for with free Amazon gift cards, gotten from Swagbucks, MyPoints, my PerkStreet debit card, or my Amazon.com visa. Many of the rest came from PaperbackSwap, where I buy credits for $2.50 each. I always buy used and can make out like a bandit at used booksales. so I do pretty well for myself. It’s one of the few recreational things I spend on ; It’s worth every penny to me.

    My commuter train lets off a few blocks from an excellent library, and I get a lot of my books there was well. That’s probably another $100/year in library fines. Well worth it, IMHO. Reading is my main hobby.

  11. Gavin says:

    My wife checks out books from the public library all the time. This saves a lot of money and most books can be found. In San Diego, you can go to their website and reserve books from any library and they deliver it to your local library for free! http://www.sandiego.gov/public-library

  12. Seth Mason says:

    I’m with Greg on this one. Worldcat is great. There’s a helpful bookmarklet too called xISBN Bookmarket that makes it even easier to use.

    I wrote up a little blurb about it earlier this year:

  13. cv says:

    Thanks for the worldcat link, Greg! Since I live near one library and work near one in a different system, that will come in really handy.

  14. Kathy says:

    Sadly, it appears that my local libraries do not have listings on worldcat page :(

  15. guinness416 says:

    Toronto’s library system is outstanding – the ability to read magazines online, great booking mechanism, etc etc – but for popular books, no matter how many copies they get, I’m often more like number 250 in line than 4! It’s generally still worth waiting though.

  16. LoriBeth says:

    I love my library, but I’ve also discovered a small used bookstore close by that will let you trade in your old books for credit. My daughter came out with a whole basket full of books, and already has a basket ready to go back for trade. Really fun.

  17. littlepitcher says:

    Our small-town library has a couple of known identity thieves running it, and their family is slowly taking over the town government. After many years of mid-city libraries, I am quietly bereft. Other cities do have great online resources, especially for genealogy. Even if you are not into that sort of research, the multitudes of historical material available in those departments can keep curiosity well fed.
    I quit buying anything except tools at Sears, years ago. The service is poor, clothing overpriced, and the shoes fall apart fast. With the breakage of a ratchet and stripping out of two sockets, I’m not even certain about their tools. (Top gripe: mechanics who use air tools to tighten lugs that ordinary citizens have to remove with hand tools.)

  18. reulte says:

    littlepitcher — I always ask the mechanic to hand tightened them and I’m usually right there watching them to make sure they do so.

    I love my local libraries — sadly, budget crunches have hit them as well and one is only open 2 days a week while the other is open 4 days. Libraries usually buy multiples for popular books, but one way to keep yourself from being way back on the list is to see if there is a pre-purchase wait list or to get on the list soon after the book is published.

  19. jeff says:

    Someone at my local library wrote a greasemonkey script so that whenever you search Amazon.com it automatically does a search of the local library system as well as WorldCat and AccessPA for that book and then provides links. They also made an iGoogle gadget and a toolbar search for Firefox. Then of course they will ship items from one branch to the branch 2 blocks from my house on request as well.

  20. Claudia says:

    #7 Deb- your town board is made up of idiots! Close the library, what a stupid, stupid idea. Gee, have it open less hours or ask for volunteers! I’ve only once lived in a town without a library, but there was one 15 miles away. I don’t think I could survive without my books. You need to start a petition to stop them. They need to think of the children growing up without a library.

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