So you want to read a book! But Oh Noes, your library doesn’t seem to have the book on their shelves! What do!
No worries, we got you. One of us is a librarian and knows all of the ins and outs of how titles end up on the shelves and things you can do to get that sweet, sweet book you’ve been craving but can’t afford.
BTW this is for books only.
Before requesting a title:
Make sure that your library doesn’t already have the book in question in their catalog - this includes both physical and ebook.
Make sure that your library can’t already get the book through an interlibrary loan.
Libraries have a lot less budget for books than most people think. If they don’t have to buy a book they aren’t certain will circulate, they won’t.
Libraries often have agreements with other libraries to share catalogs. For instance, the ENTIRE state of Michigan is available for interlibrary loan within Michigan as are all of the Michigan Public Universities. So if you’re in Detroit and want a book that a library has in, say, Menominee which is 500 miles away. You’re going to be getting a book from Menominee.
If you are a University student/faculty, your school’s library is likely connected to a multi-university interlibrary loan. Check there. If the book you want to read is in California and you’re in Maine, most likely you can get that book from California. This also works with fiction books. English majors need research material too.
Things to know:
If the book you want is published through the big 5 (MacMillan, Hachette, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins) and is NOT an e-book, it is more likely to be ordered because libraries have ordering agreements with the big publishers. If it is an e-book, things get more complicated. MacMillan is currently being embargoed by many libraries.
Many libraries will not purchase self-published titles. It’s a thing. If your desired book has a publisher, it has a better chance of being purchased.
Many libraries will not purchase through Amazon. Libraries prefer to go through other distributors.
Many libraries will simply ignore all requests from authors looking to sell their own books. Many libraries will ignore requests from local authors or demand the author provide the book in question.
If you are not a patron of the library in question (aka you don’t have a library card through them), your request will likely be ignored.
So you’ve done those steps, and the title you want isn’t available for interlibrary loan (which happens) or isn’t anywhere your local library can get it from. So now what?
Ask your local librarian if they take requests. Some libraries require physical proof of demand.
Go to your library’s website (or library system) and look for a section called “Recommend a title” “Suggest a Title for Purchase” etc. It’s often in the Contact Us tab.
If the ebook is available on Overdrive but the library doesn’t own it, you may be able to search on Overdrive and simply press the “Recommend” button.
So you’ve got that. Now you want to request a book. Things you will need:
Your Library Card number (see above as to why) - some sites require that you log in to their system to request.
The Book’s ISBN - The ISBN should be listed on the product page and is either 10 characters or 13 characters long.
The Book’s Title
The Author’s Name
Any other pertinent info that might make the library more likely to purchase it (like is it an Own Voices, set in the area the library services, audience, etc.)
The procedure should be similar for ebooks and print books; bear in mind that some libraries only take print book suggestions while others only take ebook suggestions. Ebooks must also NOT be in Kindle Unlimited. Libraries pretty much exclusively order ebooks through Overdrive, Hoopla, Baker & Taylor, Bibliotheca, and publisher exclusive sites.
Just so you are aware, libraries want to buy books that their patrons are interested in reading, but they only have small budgets to work with. Oftentimes you will have to be willing to wait for budgets to reset (they can be monthly, quarterly, or yearly). Also know that just because you have requested a title doesn’t mean that the library will order it. Again budget is the big limiter, but it isn’t the only one.
It may sound like we’re telling you not to request, but that’s not it. Request away! We’ve both requested books from our local libraries including indie-pubbed titles. It is possible! It just takes time and an understanding of how libraries work.
We hope this helps answer any questions you might have! If you have more questions or library specific questions, ask your local librarian.
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