45+ Ways to Make the Most of Your Library

I love the library!

Every time we’ve moved over the years, one of my first priorities is getting a library card.

I love visiting libraries on vacation or hearing about other library programs.

If you’d like to make the most of your library, here are some of my best tips!

library programs

library programs, library activities, and other library hacks

  1. Get to know the librarian and staff. This is the BEST tip – no one will know better than the librarians what is great about your library and the better you know them (and they know you!) the better your library experience is likely to be.
  2. See what unusual things they loan out. I’ve heard from people whose public libraries loan out puzzles, cake pans, ebikes, crockpots, telescopes, power tools, VR sets, pottery wheels, bird watching kits, and more!
  3. Take advantage of online holds. I’m SUCH a believer in this library hack – I love being able to show up at the library and know I’ll have some great books I’m excited about waiting for me.
  4. Put KID books on hold! Plenty of people put their own buzzy bestseller books on hold, but don’t consider doing it for kid books. It’s so nice to know that no matter what your kids grab off the shelves, you’ll go home with some picture books or chapter books that are actually worth reading. One mom said, “Put kid books you want to read on hold or you’ll only end up with Disney early readers.” Amen!
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask the library they can add an item, service, or program. Libraries WANT to provide the resources their patrons want, but the only way to know what patrons want is having those patrons speak up. If you’re reading this list and thinking, “Why doesn’t my library loan out puzzles?” this is the moment to ask for it!
  6. Follow your library on socials and sign up for their newsletter so you don’t miss announcements. I love my library’s emails and I find out about so many great programs and resources and events I would have for sure missed otherwise. Many library patrons mentioned that their library’s Facebook page gets updated a lot more frequently than the library site itself.
  7. Check for museum passes. Our Boston library had this and I LOVED it – being able to visit the children’s museum or aquarium or sculpture garden for zero dollars was a HUGE win.
  8. Take advantage of the programs. Library programming is the BEST – our library does multiple story times and in the summer they often do it outside. When we lived in North Carolina, my kids lived for LEGO club at our library!
  9. Check for online subscriptions. Libraries often have subscriptions to programs like ancestry.com or Creative Bug or Rosetta Stone. Ask at the desk or explore the website and see what you can find!
  10. Visit different branches within your system. If your library is part of a bigger library system, visit the various branches! I loved doing this when we lived in Arizona and Texas – each branch has different displays, features, and programming, so it’s fun to visit multiple branches!
  11. Look for a New Arrivals shelf. Many many libraries have this and its a great way to see what’s new and hot! If you don’t see one, ask your library if there is one or suggest they create one!
  12. Get to know the catalog. The catalog for a library is usually a wealth of ways to find new interesting materials. Try advanced search features, key words, filter/sorting styles, etc. Give yourself 20 minutes to play around with it and see what you discover!
  13. Explore the library website to see what they offer. Similarly, take some time to explore the library website and you might be surprised what resources you find.
  14. Find out their printing policy. One reader said, “My library allows cardholders to print 80 pages a week. I’m never buying printer/ink again.”
  15. Create lists by theme for the future. Many library catalogs let you create lists and this is a great way to gather books for book club possibilities, Christmas picture books, road trip audiobooks and more. Then when you’re ready to request them, they’ll all be in one place!
  16. Hit up a used book sale! Most libraries host a used book sale periodically or have little “bookstore” where you can buy books cheaply (often well under $1!).
  17. Participate in the reading challenges! These are fun for kids and fun for adults too! It’s a delight to sink into a good book AND get a prize for doing so at the end!
  18. Use the online audiobook and ebook access! This is probably one of my most used library tools – I love using Libby or Hoopla to get audiobooks and ebooks for zero dollars!
  19. Go to the library board meetings. If you want to help shape the way your library serves the community, get involved!
  20. Check out the magazine and newspaper subscriptions! In college, I checked out SO MANY magazines so that I could read something for fun even if I only had a few minutes between studying.
  21. Pause your holds. If you’re going on vacation or need a few extra days to finish up your current reads before more roll in, suspend or pause your holds! (My library allows this right in the catalog).
  22. Have a set time each week to go the library. We don’t currently do this but for years we did and it made it easy to keep track of due dates and holds! (Generally we tried to have it align with story time!)
  23. Try before you buy board games or cookbooks. If your library allows check out of these items, it’s a great way to see if it’s something you want to own!
  24. Send a library ebook to Kindle. One of the biggest reasons we have Kindle readers is so we can take advantage of the library ebook collection. Here is how to send a library book to a Kindle and here’s how to send a library book to a KID’S Kindle.
  25. Join a book club. Want to join a book club? Your library likely offers one!
  26. Check for a maker space. Our library has tons of audiovisual equipment so you can record podcasts, make music or videos, and lots of other things. Other readers said their libraries have 3D printers and other cool maker equipment.
  27. Rent a room for a party or book club! It’s fun to hang at the library and affordable, especially if no one has desire or space in their home to host!
  28. Ask about home bound delivery of books. Many libraries offer this service – if you can’t get to the library, they’ll bring the library books to you!
  29. Place a hold before the book is released. This is a favorite trick for me! Many libraries add books to the catalog before they’re released and you can get in the hold line so that when the book is actually available, you’re top of the list! Bonus trick: Find out what day your library updates their digital catalog so you’ll know when to check for new additions!
  30. Check for a Puzzle Swap section. This is a common library offering – you can leave a puzzle or take a puzzle. If your library doesn’t have one, ask them to add it!
  31. Meet friends at the library! I’ve met some of my favorite friends in various cities at story time. Or arrange with a friend to meet up at story time or for library events – it’s more fun with friends!
  32. Use the filter for “new materials in the last year…” Your library catalog likely has some sort of filter like this (my library calls it “New Books”).
  33. See if library offers book pickup curbside service. It is a DELIGHT to not have to buckle and unbuckle all your kids just to run in and grab 5 books off the hold shelf!
  34. Create smart lists in Libby. If you want an easy way to keep track of what you want to read (TBR, audio, wishlist, seasonal, etc) this is such a streamlined way to do it.
  35. Request books they don’t have. Most libraries have the option to request book purchases. Here’s how to do that! 
  36. Ask the librarians for help! Need help finding a book? Want a recommendation for something for your child to read after they’ve finished Harry Potter? The librarians are there for you! One commented saying, “You are not disturbing them. It’s my favorite part of the job!”
  37. Get multiple copies of a book club book. Libraries are often happy to do this – ask the librarian if this is something they can help with!
  38. Get a CD player so you can check out the music and audiobooks for kids. If your library still is providing book and music CDs, a $25 CD player is a great way to take advantage of those resources (and kids can run them themselves!). We’ve LOVED using library CDs for the past decade.
  39. Get a library card for each person in your family. Want more checkouts or holds? Get everyone their own card!
  40. See if you library offers NoveList to get more reading recs! If you’re constantly looking for more book recommendations, this is a great resource.
  41. Explore library staff recommendation lists. Our library has cards in a big wall display on every topic – vehicle picture books, funny chapter books, ABC books, fracture fairy tales, etc.
  42. Use Interlibrary loan. This is a common offering from libraries where you can request they borrow a book from another library (whether it’s in your state or not!). For small libraries especially, this can be a huge perk.
  43. Suspend holds on seasonal books! If you’re thinking about Christmas books in September but don’t want them until December, place a hold and then suspend them until the day you want them.
  44. Use the Notify me tag on Libby! I did a super popular reel about this on Instagram – it’s both a way to notify the library that you’re interested in a book and also get access to it quickly when it releases. One reader said, “I’ve been 1-5th in line for major releases!”
  45. Teach kids basics about picking books and let them have at it! This is such a great practice for kids because it costs you nothing, you can return books that aren’t very good, and, as one mom said, “It’s an easy yes/win!”
  46. Use multiple apps if available. If your library uses multiple audiobook or ebook apps like Libby or Hoopla, you might find lower hold lines or even no hold lines on less used apps!

Any other suggestions for making the most of your library? I’d love to hear!

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  1. This is such a fun list! A quick note about children’s library cards: some places take privacy extremely seriously. My hometown library recently told my sister that if her children misplaced the books and my sister wanted to know the names of the books that had been checked out under her childrens’ cards that the library wouldn’t be able to tell her due to privacy (even though her kids are four and five years old!). They recommended that for now the children check out books under a guardian’s card.

  2. I love this list – there are so many great tips on here! Suspending your library reservations is a great one. As a librarian, I can’t tell you the number of customers who missed their reservation because they were on holiday or they reserved a whole series but book 4 arrived for them before book 2. Suspending is so handy and is one of the tips I always tell library customers.

  3. You are the reason I started using Overdrive/Libby, the reason I put my books on hold at the library and books for my kids on hold too. I am now teaching kindergarten and am not sure what grade I will be teaching next year so I also put holiday books on hold so I don’t invest in them and then get moved to a new grade level.
    I have been following you for years and have so appreciated your tips over the years. I was recently reading my Kindle on a spring break with some friends. I told one friend how I get ebooks delivered straight to my kindle. A few days later my friend ordered a Kindle and I sent her to your website on how to get books delivered from your library to your kindle. Thank you!

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