I am very lucky to live close to one of the biggest branches in my library’s system. It is literally a 15 minute walk from my house, and generally very well-stocked. It also helped a lot that my mom used to work at that branch, so it has always been very easy for me to get library books. As much as I’d like to think I know how the library system works pretty well, there are still things that don’t quite work the way I would expect.
One of my goals for the year was to try and balance out reading books from the library with reading books that I own. I’ve cheated the system a bit by buying some of the books I had on hold from the library from Book Outlet, so they become owned books instead. To be honest, I haven’t been doing a great job with this goal since I always end up prioritizing library books over the books I have. That’s not to say that I don’t want to read the books I have, because I definitely do, but but there is something a bit more fun and exciting about releasing library holds and getting the notification that the books are ready to pick up.
This leads me to my first struggle — when I take out too many books at once, and then struggle to finish them all on time. This happened to me this month. I had decided that I wanted to finish off the last two Throne of Glass books, and requested about 20 books from the library while I read those. I expected that these books would come staggered over the next couple of weeks — so I was shocked to find about half of them ready to pick up within a few days, just as I was starting Kingdom of Ash! By the time I had finished Kingdom of Ash about a week later, I had another 10 books arrive! Keep in mind, this is before I had even picked up a single one of my library books that I’d taken out so far. Oh, and I should also mention that when I went to pick up my first batch, I ended up spending about half an hour just wandering the shelves, and grabbed a few more books that I knew were on my list just because I saw them on the shelves.
My library allows us to take out books for 3 weeks at a time, with up to 10 renewals (3 more weeks each time). And we are allowed to take out up to 150 items at a time. I have never reached anywhere close to that many, which is probably a good thing because I’m having enough trouble managing the 30 or so I have out now! We can’t renew anything if there are other people who have it on hold, but otherwise you can end up keeping the books you have out for quite long time. The issue I ran into was not only did most of my books unexpectedly show up at once, but some of them also showed up in the “wrong” order. I had decided that this month I would finally read the Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare, and intentionally released my holds on all three at the same time in the hopes of getting them all together. Of course, with my luck, Clockwork Princess (third in the series) showed up first, and I took it out while I was still reading Kingdom of Ash. I knew I didn’t want to read two fantasy series in a row, so I read a couple of other books in between.
The issue arose when I went to renew the book. I had to wait at least a week for the first two Infernal Devices books to be in, and by the time they arrived, Clockwork Princess had another request on it, meaning I wouldn’t be able to renew it. No problem, I thought, there are a few other copies from the library so one of those is sure to come back and fulfill that request. I soon realized that this was not the case. With all three copies of Clockwork Princess out, including the one I have and two people requesting copies, there was no chance to renew it. This wouldn’t necessarily have been a big deal if it had been the first book in the series, but this was the third book and I hadn’t even started the first one yet! Even though mine was the copy due back first by a day or two, I found myself hoping that both of the others would return theirs on time, or even early, so they would fulfill the requests and I’d be able to renew.
Instead, I’d become one of those people who I’d always kind of resented — someone who returns a book late, knowing that others are waiting for it. As much as it has always bothered me when I was waiting for a book that was returned late, I ultimately decided to keep Clockwork Princess and finish it off first. I realized that by the day it was due, I would already be partway through the book and if I gave it back, I’d be waiting 3-6 weeks minimum to get a copy again, possibly even longer. And let me tell you, it was a huge struggle to make this decision! I had to get over my natural rule-following tendencies to justify to myself that a) I’d only be a day or two late, and b) at least one of the other copies would likely come back first to fulfill at least one of the requests. I also have to say our library’s fine policy really is not a strong incentive to give things back quickly — they only charge about 30 cents per day late, which really isn’t very much. If I hadn’t already started the book by the time it was due, I would have given it back if I couldn’t renew it.
I’m still kind of holding out hope that the other two people who have copies will be able to do what I didn’t, and give theirs back early. In theory, that would let me renew mine so I can have the last couple of days needed to finish it off and give it back, but it doesn’t seem very likely that it will happen. What I probably should have learned from this is not to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to taking out library books, or at least not to take out so many while I’m already reading the lengthy conclusion to another series, but somehow I doubt it will change my approach. I do hope not to be in a position again where I choose to keep a book late, but it’s hard to predict. Sometimes, I end up having to play the game of “Do I renew this now, and lose out on some days on the original checkout time, or wait and hope there are no requests by the time it’s closer to the due date?” Literally as I was writing this post, I went onto my library account to check on my current holds and realized I had 6 day remaining on several of them, and had to decide whether to renew now or wait a couple more days. Maybe I did learn something from this though, since I decided to err on the side of caution a bit and just renew them now.
If nothing else, this situation has given me an extra level of motivation to read so I can finish off Clockwork Princess as quickly as possible so it’s not too late. It’s also made me think that maybe I should not release holds on later books in a series until I have the first few in my possession first, but that can be just as tricky to manage since I don’t usually want to wait too long between books in a series. Maybe my library just needs to keep more copies of popular books! I know this series is a little older now, but my mom is sure that there used to be around 15 copies of the book instead of the 3 they currently kept. I know libraries can’t keep everything and always need to make room for new things, but ours seems to be going on quite the purge lately and getting rid of a lot to make the shelves “look less crowded.” It seems totally counterproductive to me, but another reason to heavily use my library to try and keep books on the shelves!
I love libraries, but now all the ones with books in English are gone (essentially), so if I don’t get ARCs from NetGalley or Edelweiss, or buy print copies, I wouldn’t have anything to read. Of course, that doesn’t make my TBR list any smaller!