Friday, June 7, 2019

Manage when library ebook loans arrive using OverDrive & Libby

Ever get a notice the ebook you put on hold at the library is available, but the timing isn't ideal to start a new book for some reason? Or it's just a bad time to start that particular book? I used to run up against that digital wall all the time.

Maybe it was bad timing because I had another book (or two) in play already, or I wasn't in the mood for that book at that moment, or it was for a book club and I preferred to read it closer to the meeting date. The last one is a biggie echoed by several others I've been in book clubs with over the years. Many people (myself included) prefer to read the book within a couple weeks before their group's discussion so it's fresh in their minds.

Book clubs: Let library apps help time ebook arrival

With book groups, the particular challenge comes in when the book in question has a long wait list, so it's wise to put it on hold well in advance of the discussion date. But wait list times are guesstimates, affected by factors like people returning loans early or changing their hold status. If you don't time it right, you either get the book too far in advance of your meeting, or worse yet, not in time.

It doesn't have to be that way. A nifty feature in your library's OverDrive or Libby app lets you suspend your hold without losing your place in line for the book. It's surprising how many library lovers at my book clubs knew nothing about this feature, and often complained of having to read the book sooner than they wanted or just let it go back unread.

Even more surprising (to me, at least) is that I was one of those people until I actually paid attention to the options on my "Holds" page. Plain as day, there's an option to "Suspend Hold" in OverDrive and "Manage Hold" in Libby.

What are OverDrive and Libby?

First, let me explain what OverDrive and Libby are for the uninitiated. OverDrive is a service many U.S. libraries use to offer free ebook and audiobook digital loans to their members. If you've got a library card and your library offers OverDrive (and at this point I think most in the U.S. do), you can borrow digital books for free. Go to your library's website and look for OverDrive, or a heading like "eLibrary," "eMedia," "digital offerings," etc. You'll find directions on how to use it (and it's easy as pie).

Libby offers the same books and audiobooks you'll find in OverDrive, it's simply a different way to access the materials. I prefer the Libby app when I'm using my tablet, and I use a browser to access the OverDrive website when I'm on my laptop (there's also an app for OverDrive you can use on mobile devices, but I don't use that one, so I'll focus on the website).

If you're simply terrible with tech, don't be afraid to go in and ask for a tutorial. Many libraries even offer free classes where they teach you to use your eReader or have an open technology lab for any kind of tech questions, so take them up on it if you feel the need. Or just Google "how to use OverDrive" and you'll find all kinds of tutorials, including videos if you prefer a visual of exactly how it's done. The same can be found for Libby.

Time your ebook loan by suspending the hold

Now down to brass tacks. You've put an ebook on hold and it says you'll have it in two weeks, but for whatever reason you won't be ready for it by then. On the OverDrive website for your library, click on "My account" in the top right and select "Holds" from the drop down menu.

This takes you to a list of all the ebooks and audiobooks you have on hold. Under each title, there's a "Suspend hold" button (or, if you've already suspended the hold as I have in the photo above, an "Edit hold" button). Click it, and you'll see the option to suspend the item for anywhere from seven to 180 days.

The coolest part? You continue moving up the wait list while the hold is suspended! If you're at No. 1 by the time your suspension ends, the next copy that comes back is yours. You can even end your suspension early or extend it for a longer time by clicking the "Edit hold" button.

If you're using the Libby app, after you've put a book on hold, you can find it by clicking "Shelf" on the bottom right of the screen. This takes you to a screen showing recently returned ebooks and a menu option for "Holds." Click it, and you'll go to the list of all the digital materials you have on hold. By each book is a "Manage Hold" option; select it, and you'll get a menu offering to "Cancel Hold" or "Suspend Hold." If you select "Suspend Hold," you go to a page with an option that says "Active." Click that and set how long you would like to have the hold suspended. After you select a time period, click "Update Hold." Sorted!

I actually find it easier to use OverDrive on my laptop using a browser rather than a desktop app, but go with what works for you. If you're using these on a Kindle tablet, the Libby app is not available through the Amazon appstore. However, if you've made the mods to add the Google Play Store to your Kindle Fire, I can attest the Libby app works.

Of course, this method doesn't help if you need the book before your turn in line comes up. That's why if you know you want a book at a certain time (especially important with a book club), it's a good idea to place a hold early and then suspend that sucker as much as needed to plan out when you'll get it.

If the opposite happens and a book is ready to borrow immediately when you look it up (meaning there is no option to put it on hold), that usually means you'll likely be able to grab a copy when needed later. If it's for a book club, I still would go back and check now and then, and if it's ever unavailable I'll take the opportunity to put it on hold and immediately suspend the hold until closer to the time I need the book.

Hope this helped someone, and happy reading!

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