Help! All My Library Holds Came In at the Same Time!

Help! All My Library Holds Came In at the Same Time!

Awhile back, my soon-to-be sister-in-law, Katy, texted me about a common problem among book nerds who frequent the library: having all your holds come in at once. 

Admittedly, this happens to me ALL THE TIME. Even though I primarily use Libby/OverDrive (the library's platform for ebooks and digital audiobooks, for the uninitiated) and you can suspend your holds to help prevent them from coming in all at once and conflicting with one another, if you have multiple library cards and you're nearing your hold limits for each (as I am), it's bound to happen. 

On the surface, it might seem like the easiest thing to do would be to read them in the order they come in and try to do it as quickly as you can. But her texting me about this and asking which book she should read first made me realize it's more complicated than that and I have more of a "system" for making decisions than I was previously aware. 

We came up with a good solution for her and I hope the things we took into consideration to decide which book she should read first will be helpful for you as well. Here's how it went down:

Katy: I need your expert advice. I had two audiobooks come in at the same time that I've been on the holds list waiting on for a long time. I can't renew either because of the hold time. Which one do I listen to? 

Mandy: Which two audiobooks are they?

Katy: Little Fires Everywhere (Celeste Ng) and The Book Thief (Markus Zusak). 

Mandy: Hmmm. Okay, here’s how I’d handle this. Look at the number of holds for each one and the number of copies your library has. If you’re in the OverDrive/Libby app it should say something like #37 on 14 copies or something to that effect.

So you’ll want to take that into account. More copies mean a shorter hold time. This is kind of tricky because although The Book Thief has been out for a decade, it has staying power. My guess is that your library probably has a decent number of copies because of that.

However, Little Fires Everywhere is brand spanking new. So my guess is that, if your library is well funded, they might have 20-30 copies because it’s so in demand right now. If they’re not so well-funded, they might have 5. Some libraries will get the rights to a bunch of copies right out of the gate for brand new, high-demand books, then downsize later as the book falls out of the spotlight. If that’s the case with your library, I’d go with Little Fires Everywhere first. That way you can strike while the iron is hot while knowing The Book Thief isn’t going anywhere.

Katy: Right. And our branch just closed for renovation. 

Mandy: That could complicate things. The renovation means it’d be harder (or at least less convenient) for you to physically go in and get your hands on a print copy. In that case, I’d say go with Little Fires Everywhere first because, in terms of print, it’s only in hardback right now, so there’s no chance of you finding a cheap copy at a used bookstore or something. You might be able to find a cheap copy of The Book Thief since it’s been out awhile. 


My thinking is, if it's too hard to get a copy of the book from the library and it might be easier to find a print copy for cheap somewhere (like my go-to Half Price Books), then that could be an option (assuming your budget affords it). But that thinking doesn't work for all books, especially new releases, so you have to weigh your options. 

For me, when the book came in and the length of the lending period is secondary to how in demand the book is because if you're one of the lucky folks to get a brand new, popular book early on, if you return it before you've read it, hoping you're going to be able to get it quickly again later, you could be waiting a long time.

But of course, the good news is that if the book is in demand, the library won't weed it from the collection. So as long as there's demand, you're sure to get it at some point. And it's free, so while waiting for long periods of time can be annoying, it's hard to complain when it's not costing anything but patience. 

Now, I've got a question for you...

What's on your holds list right now? Tell me about a book you're super excited to read in the comments below. 

I'm always looking for great books, so give me something to add to my TBR pile. At the moment, my holds list includes, but is not limited to The Belles by Dhionelle Clayton, We Are Okay by Nina LaCour, The Power by Naomi Alderman, So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Olou, When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, and Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. 

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