The Friendly Reminder Amazon And Barnes & Noble Would Prefer We Kept To Ourselves

Consumerists, we want to say one word to you – just one word.
Are you listening?

Really, libraries. “My Money Blog” took a moment to remind us that libraries are an incredible and underutilized resource.

First of all, the selection is great. In addition to books, a lot of popular music albums and DVDs are available. Recently, I’ve gotten the newest Snow Patrol album and a full season of the Sopranos. Other features which may be in your area are Library2Go, which offers audiobooks that you can listen to on your mp3 player, and NetLibrary, which offers e-books that you can download to your computer or PDA.

My favorite feature is the internet-based hold system. I go online, pick out all the books I want, and make a few clicks. I get to see exactly how many people are ahead of me, and when the book is ready, it’s shipped directly to my local branch (only a few blocks away) and I get an e-mail saying it’s waiting for me. Renewing online is just as easy. I love it.

We love libraries, too. Next time you need a book, put away your credit card and whip out your library card. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

Have You Checked Out Your Local Public Library Recently? [My Money Blog]
(Photo: timetrax23)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Vinny says:



    Where the hell does this guy live that his library isn’t loaded with outdated crap?

  2. timmus says:

    No kidding. Just 2 months ago I used to Google for library database “trial” accounts in order to get bits and pieces for my various projects. Then I decided to go down to my public library. Here in Texas, all libraries get a big database package called Texshare, which includes all the HeritageQuest genealogy stuff, back newspaper searches, census records and so on. The librarian gave me the login info to take with me, and 5 minutes later I was relaxing at home surfing a ton of databases. I’ve also learned to use the microfiche to read all the back issues of our newspapers (which you can’t get online here).

  3. timmus says:

    P.S. My “no kidding” was in response to the OP, not to the previous commenter.

  4. zaq2g says:

    I love my library, its tiny, but its networked to other libraries in the region, and can request almost any book, dvd or cd and have it delivered to my local branch. Much better than BN and blockbuster

  5. FREAKHEAD says:

    I agree. I love to read but I hate moving b/c it means I have to move those books I haven’t read since college. We try and take a family trip once every 2 weeks. They have such an excellent section for children. I can usually find what I am looking for although I have to fight for new releases. You’d be surprised how spry a book worm can be.

    With libraries moving into the 21st century, they make it very easy to pop online, find and reserve a book as well as re-checking out your books.

    Too bad so many parents use it for free daycare from 3 – 5 but I guess I could think of worse places to send your children. :)

  6. synergy says:

    I agree with The Money Blog. That’s exactly like our library system works here. I sometimes feel lazy for searching for a book online and then just putting a hold on it so I don’t have to go further than the entry desk. :D Oh and the latest books are always being bought by the library. I go to Borders to find books I like but don’t really want a personal copy of so I can look for it at the library.

    Then again this is a top 10 in population city, so… But considering that I think it was 2004 or 2005 when a poll was made of the city and it was found that, on the average, city residents finished ONE book a year, that’s a pretty damn good system.

  7. Kat says:

    You know, one time I went through and put everything that my library had, that was also on my Amazon Wishlist, into my library’s “my list” feature, to request in the future. It was 50-75 books. Then a couple of months later, I found out that, no matter how often you update it, the library clears out all user’s lists after 3 months. GRRRR.

    It’s odd that when I get a book from Amazon I can read it in 2 days flat, but somehow when I get books from the library I just don’t feel like reading.

  8. hemaphore says:

    I used my library as a free video store when money was tight. Our library system has a lot of documentaries too that are otherwise unavailable at the video store.

  9. craiggers says:

    Absolutely. I work in a library and can’t remember the last time I went to a Borders or Blockbuster. My library system allows patrons to order books from any library in the county (close to 50 libraries), and if no one in the county has it, we have a clerk that can order books from pretty much any library in the country. We order multiple copies of popular books and new to dvd movies so that patrons don’t have to wait long periods of time to get them.

    And if you return them on time – it’s free. Our funding comes from tax dollars and donations. It’s amazing how many people are upset at $12 in fines from 5 overdue movies at the library but will gladly pay $30 for the same thing from Blockbuster.

  10. letoofdune says:


    So true. There are far too many woefully underfunded and poorly maintained libraries for all of them to be of use.

    When I attended college in the Northeast, my school’s library had all the DVDs and books I could ever want, and made sure I only had to buy textbooks and other books I wanted to keep. Otherwise, their policies were perfect for keeping me stocked in all sorts of matierals, visual and audio.

    The small Texas town in which I currently reside, though, has a library which reminds me of the type that would contain books referring to the Civil Rights Movement as “Trouble Ahead.”

    *My apologies to Family Guy for the joke stealing.

  11. GeekChicCanuck says:

    As a librarian, I’d to thank Consumerist for helping to support my line of work ;). For those people who would prefer to not have to go into the library at all… some libraries are looking at ways to offer home delivery of holds.

    Right now, my place of work offers delivery to people who are unable to come into the library due to physical illness or disability. We will deliver to homes, hospitals and long-term care facilities. We are trying to find ways to expand this service to everyone who would like it.

  12. Amy Alkon says:

    Thank you, GeekChicCanuck. I have a special place in my heart for librarians, as I had a really bad childhood and spent much of it reading the entire Farmington Hills Public Library.

    These days, I live in Los Angeles, where I can get on my computer, order any book in the system (and perhaps videos, too, but I haven’t tried) and have it DELIVERED in days all the way from the downtown library to a library blocks from my house. FREE!

  13. Skeptic says:

    I must give props to my library system as well.

    One of the best reasons to use your local library is that you get to return library books and the library will store them for you.

    I love owning books, but I can’t keep acquiring them indefinitely without running out of room. The library helps me manage the books I own buy not having to store most books.

  14. Morton Fox says:

    Ah, the library. Where else can I get the complete works of Kafka?

  15. silenuswise says:

    I just can’t imagine how you people can sleep at night, knowing that the rights of content-providers and copyright-holders are being so blatantly abused by this “library” (code word for “pirating”) system you speak of, with every piece of media that is accessed. Sure, you pay for it with your taxes, but how are record companies supposed to maximize profits when people can just go in and rent music–for free?!? And that’s to say nothing about the millions upon millions of books that library patrons read without purchasing. Hear that giant sucking sound? That’s the sound of the world’s pool of creativity, evaporating irreversibly because of your contempt for copyright.

    For shame, haters of creativity and privatization. For shame.

  16. bentcorner says:

    The library is great. Started recently going after not setting foot into one in over a decade. One of the first things I saw was a new hardbound novel I was waiting to buy once it was released into paperback. I’ve also been able to find a lot of stuff on DVD at the library. Complete seasons of TV shows are one of my favorites. Most libraries also stock a nice selection of graphic novels (collected comic books).

  17. Maulleigh says:

    I go to the New York Public Library almost every day. It’s the best place to spend a lunch hour. It’s really great for CDs but also the BIG EXPENSIVE COFFEE TABLE BOOKS that you look at once or twice but never look at again. I just got out the new Postsecret book and a TASCHEN book of 40s advertising. What do I need to buy that for? READ AND RETURN. NEXT!!!

  18. shoegazer says:

    ah the library. I remember being eight and spending weekend afternoons at a local library in Minnesota reading through Choose Your Own Adventure books and old Tom Smart and Hardy Boys books. I eventually graduated to the Dune collection, and still have a soft spot in my heart for libraries with big bean bags and lots of kid friendly sci fi paperbacks.

  19. harleymcc says:

    The library system up here is amazing, especially their dvd selection. They get multiple copies of new releases, I can reserve them on-line and get them for 3 days. My local branch has a shelf in the hold-section just for me. cough “dvd-shrink” cough

  20. Snakeophelia says:

    I was a book nerd from a very early age. My mom used to leave me in the main city library for several hours while she worked at her office on weekends. I’m sure now that would be illegal, and grounds for child neglect (not to mention just asking for a kidnapping), but at 11 years old I would just plant myself in the sci-fi section and be there for hours. Best babysitter I could have had.

    I’m still a library nut. In any given week I have 10-20 books checked out from our local library system, which is okay but not great (I can find books online but can’t reserve them in that way).

  21. formergr says:

    I love libraries, but here in the city of Chicago they’re pretty crappy. My local branch is in a brand spanking new building that I Was pretty excited about until it actually opened. Still has the same poorly organized, crappy selection of half-empty book shelves and long wait times if you reserve books ahead of time for pick-up.

    My local library in suburban NJ (which served maybe 5,000 people total) was great in comparison, as was the Ann Arbor public library in Michigan when I lived there (though that won national library of the year at least once, so no surprise).

  22. danielftl says:

    As the poster states, the library is completely underutilized. I have so many books and my spouse said I was not allowed to buy any more books or DVDs, so now I order them from the library and return them. However, I suffer from the same symptoms as another commenter: sometimes I get a book from the library and then I just don’t feel like reading. Libraries and librarians totally rock.

  23. Musician78 says:

    When I was 16,(many years agao now) I took 3 books out from my local library. I brought two back after a couple of days. After about two weeks, I dropped the third one off at the book drop off box. The next time I went to take out a book, I was told that I hadn’t returned one and owed 28 bucks for it. I weasn’t going to pay it, because I had returned it. They didn’t want to loan me any more books, so it has been Borders for me ever since.

    I like owning my books when I am done with them, and now have quite the collection.

  24. etinterrapax says:

    Eh. I have found most libraries to be understocked, understaffed, outdated, and otherwise limited when I’m looking for pleasure reading. I use them for my research, and I’m glad to have them then, because they usually have what I can’t get anywhere else. But for in-print books, even networked libraries can’t deliver the breadth of selection that Amazon can. Moreover, I don’t have to share my Amazon books with the thousands of other people who are using the library. I too entered my wish list when I was living in range of the BPL, and they had about 50% of those titles in their catalogue. Ninety percent of what they had, was out. I pretty much decided at that point that unless I had to, I wasn’t going to work within those restrictions. Besides, I’m bad at getting books back on time.

  25. brattpowered says:

    I live in Texas. So I believe the budget was just approved to purchase the latest “Wham!” cassette. But Greenwich, CT– Now THAT’S a library.

  26. ninevolt says:

    My local library system (Clark County, Ohio) isn’t bad… they’ve made some questionable purchase decisions in the past few years–but overall, given the demographics of the city, I’m rather pleased.

    My hometown library system (Elkhart, Indiana) used to be great– I credit their librarians with turning me on to a number of authors I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. I haven’t been back there in several years, so I’m curious as to what the library system there has become.

  27. deltasleep says:

    Our library tries hard, but this is TN. I have so little in common with the rest of the community that I can understand them pretty much not having anything I want. No audio, no video(well, a lot of VHS) and a huge selection of mass market paperbacks.
    Sad. Wish I could afford to live somewhere that had one of those yuppie libraries I read about.

  28. srah says:

    I tend to read about a book/movie, pull up my library’s online catalogue, reserve it, then go pick it up at the desk when it comes in. It’s sort of like my own personal Netflix for books and movies. Nothing like the selection of Netflix, but a lot cheaper!

    Now everyone go make a donation to your local library!

  29. cindel says:

    Yes, Library are good if you’re looking for some good resources however I buy magazines all the time and they do not carry the latest editions.

  30. TWinter says:

    It’s sad to hear that so many people have bad/inadequate libraries. I guess I’ve been lucky to live in cities with well-funded and well-managed systems.

  31. bdgbill says:

    I used to love hanging around the library when I was a kid. Unfortunatly, since then librarys have become homeless shelters.

    Now I go to Barnes & Noble to read for free because they are still allowed to throw people out who smell of urine (or worse).

  32. Melsky says:

    The libraries in Toronto are great. I could not afford to buy even ten percent of the books I read. I read a lot.

  33. crayonshinobi says:

    My library also gets tons of copies of new releases of DVD’s and books, but there are tons of people using the system as well.

    As I write this, I am number 415 of 478 on the hold list for the 100 copies of Casino Royale that my library recently purchased.

    Still, using the library is still the best way of getting entertainment without having to directly contribute to the entertainment industry.

    Oh and, harleymcc, a gentleman never kisses and tells. ;-)

  34. RandomHookup says:

    For a while, I was using my neighborhood library like a free Netflix service. Hear about a movie (especially an obscure or foreign one), go online and request it. It might take a few days or a few months, but I’ll get an email and wander down to pick it up. Only drawbacks are the short hours of my branch and the branch has to be open to return it. But I can return to any other library in the system…and I don’t have to bring a list of the oddball films I want to see next time I go into a Blockbusters because it’s already requested.

  35. quail says:

    Kudos to Libraries! Their only downside is that you do have to live in an area that either puts emphasis on their importance or one that has reached a certain populations mass that forces quality from their library collection.

    That said, my county library improved its online capabilities. I’ve got graphic mapping for book searches and I can download audio books. My long road trips are going to be so much more pleasant now.

  36. kimsama says:

    Another great thing about libraries: they almost always have free internet access. I have used this a lot while traveling (if you’re unlucky enough to stay in a hotel without free access, just find the nearest library — lots of tourist-trap places still charge for internet in-room, but you can email and browse for free at the library down the block).

    Overseas, where free hotel internet access is not as ubiquitous as it’s becoming here, the BEST way to save a few pounds/euro/yen(or whatever money) is to find a local library and see if you can surf from there. I’ve done this in England, Italy, and Japan. Sweet! And you don’t have the same creepy population as at the internet cafes.

  37. VeryFancyBunny says:

    About a year ago, I had to remind myself that libraries existed, too. I grew up going to the library with my mom every weekend, taking classes there, going to readings there, etc. And then, for some reason, I spent my first post-college years letting my bank account bleed out to Borders and B&N. Don’t get me wrong, the bookstore is a great experience — the smell of coffee and pastries can’t be beat, and I think it’s important to support new authors by buying the hardback editions of debut novels. But spending $14 on trade paperbacks of essay collections, classics, or moderately well-selling novels was a good way for an entry-level-salaried VeryFancyBunny to go broke.

    Now I’m back to my weekly trips to the library. Our system here in north Atlanta is pretty darn good. Sometimes it takes a little while for the system to get the newest books, and sometimes I’m on an item’s hold list for a long time, but I’ve still got plenty to read and I’m saving lots of money. My book budget is reserved solely for hardbacks now — antique books I find at used bookstores, and first novels from promising new writers.

  38. theanalogdivide says:

    Those of you who are fans of free computer access should take a look at the recent spate of filtering laws up for vote in a number of states. Utah has already had one for several years, Virginia just signed theirs into law, and Illinois has one (HB 1727) in the legislature right now.

    While the intentions behind them – to keep kids away from dirty websites – make sense, filters typically end up blocking far more “safe” sites that should be allowed. Since the lists of blocked and unblocked sites are considered proprietary information, there is no way to determine a program’s filtering methods until after one makes their purchase.

    Working in a public library, we get tons of people who come in each day to use our computers. A large number of these people have no other way to access the internet. If a patron found violating community standards (which are spelled out in our Internet use policy) by viewing pornography, they’re asked to leave, with repeat offenders losing their Internet privileges. This level of self-policing works, without any of the chilling effects brought on filters.

    I’m excited to see places like the Consumerist giving libraries some attention. I hope those of you who value the services and ideals the library offers will help us protect them from these threats.

  39. My local libraries are a bit dodgy (quite underfunded), but … I can always get classics, and I can always get the latest popcorn bestseller that I’m curious enough about to read but don’t want to own.

    It’s also worthwhile to look into university libraries. Most state universities allow citizens of the state access to the (taxpayer-funded) university library system (although you might only get the books for a week at a time). Many private universities allow local folks within a certain radius access to a library card for their library, sometimes with a yearly fee.

    And many university libraries (public or private) have interlibrary loan with the local public libraries … so I can get stuff from the private Uni free via ILL at my public library instead of paying $25/year to have a card at the private Uni.

  40. stubar says:

    @deltasleep: Where in Tennessee? I spent much of my life in Nashville and found their library system to be well above average, particularly their selection of art history books which dwarf what’s available in my current system (DC!). Oh well…

  41. AcidReign says:

    …..My local library doesn’t have the greatest music CD collection, but there’s no dearth of current bestselling novels! And they have more DVDs than a Blockbuster. They have playstation games, X-Box 360 games and computer games for checkout. Best of all? You can reserve stuff on their website, not only from that library, but any library in the county; and you’ll get an email a day or two later, and all of your reserved items will be set aside on the hold shelf for you to check out. This is in backwards Alabama, too, not some high-tech Mecca…

  42. SpyMaster says:

    I don’t like going to the library anymore. Too many punks hanging around and making noises…smelly bums sitting at the tables, belching and mumbling and often yelling…security guards who seem to be there only to hassle “normal” people while leaving a large berth for the troublemakers…not too mention the inconvenience of getting into and out of the place. Give me a bookstore any day.

  43. WV.Hillbilly says:

    On the other hand, you don’t have to put up with smelly bums and winos at B&N and Amazon.

  44. WV.Hillbilly says:

    Damn, SpyMaster beat me to it.

  45. spryte says:

    @WV.Hillbilly: Heh, you did at the B&N I worked at. We were (by order of the corporate offices) not allowed to order anyone to leave unless they were causing an actual disturbance, and unfortunately smelling badly didn’t count. It sucked.

    Anyway, libraries are great for children, research projects, things like that. But for me, I want to own the books I read. I’m definitely a book-addict and I love the sight of overstuffed bookshelves in my home. Plus, I often go back and reread whole books or look up specific lines or passages I want to refresh in my memory.

  46. BocceBalls says:

    Just last week I read in the New York Post that the New York Libray system is going to partner with NetFlix.

    You order the movie of your choice and it’s delivered to your home. What’s the difference? You are borrowing the flick as you would a book.

    Can it get any better than that? Fahgetaboutit!

  47. alicetheowl says:

    I was the only kid I knew (other than my sisters) who biked to the library every weekend. Then I forgot all about them, until my college loans came back to haunt me.

    I now have a rather good balance of books checked out to books purchased, though I’m WAY behind on my reading. Ah, the wonderful problem of having too many used bookstores to choose from, and a decent library system. (I live in Western NC.)

    One benefit of libraries I haven’t seen anyone else remarking upon is the book sales. I understand our local libraries generate a lot of revenue that way, and I’ve found a LOT of books in good condition that are either out of print, hard to find, or even rare. I’m usually buying boxes full of books at these sales for what I’d normally pay for a single hardcover.

  48. coraspartan says:

    I love the library! It has saved me literally thousands of dollars over the years. I am a total bookworm and would spend a significant portion of my salary on books given the chance, but my husband would never put up with it.

    Recently my community had a millage on the ballot and they were threatening that they would have to close the library if the millage didn’t pass. Needless to say, I voted for the millage! Even with the increase in my taxes, I am still spending a couple hundred bucks less than I would if we didn’t have a library!

  49. synergy says:

    Here they have all the B&Ns and Borders in places where it’s hard to get to unless you have a car. A homeless person would have to really want to get to a bookstore to hang out at B&N and Borders. Oh right, and those pesky too-poor-to-own-a-car people too.

  50. jasontoon says:

    I like to own books, too. But I worked in independent bookstores (new and used) for three years, and amassed far more books than I can possibly keep on my shelves. Most are in boxes in my basement now. I’ve had my fill of book ownership for this lifetime.

    The library is a godsend for me – I can read my usual 2-4 books per week without worrying about where I’m going to keep them (or how I’m going to pay for them). On the rare occasion that I read something I simply must own, I put it on my Christmas list. Otherwise, it’s the library all the way. (It helps that we have a pretty good system here in St. Louis – it’s rare that I look for a book that they don’t have, especially new releases.)

  51. mermaidshoes says:

    i like libraries for older books, but find local branches to be pretty slow at getting new titles that aren’t from dan brown, dean koontz, etc. and, in my experience, there are almost exclusively VERY old (and crotchety) or VERY young (and screamy) people at the library. this makes me want to just grab some books and get the hell out of there–it’s not a very welcoming environment. maybe i should start reading library books at borders…

    also, interesting alternet article about homeless people hanging out in libraries:

  52. brilliantmistake says:

    I’m chiming in late on this, but I’d like to point out that most libraries accept book donations (and I’d bet cd or dvd as well). My local library accepts any and all books as donations. If they don’t want them, or already have copies, they sell them at annual fund raising book sales.

    If you find yourself drowning in books (like I did after moving to an expensive area and needing to downsize everything to fit the new apt), it’s a good way to go and tax deductible. I got more from the tax deduction than I would have selling them, plus all the good karma.

    You should probably call ahead and find out your local library’s donation policy before hauling a stack a books over, though.

  53. nothingistrue says:

    I started using the library again a few years ago after an extended hiatus, and absolutely LOVE it! I’ve got a massively geeky/awesome system for getting my books too.

    If you’re on a Mac, go get the free Library Books menu extra: It automatically tracks your library account, and lets you see checked and reserved items.

    I also use the LibraryLookup bookmarklet… to auto-check any Amazon book listing I’m viewing in a browser to see if it’s available at my library; if it is, then I click the button to add it to my library reserve list and voila! Instant bookage, delivered to my local branch and automatically notified by email and the menu extra.

  54. Spider Jerusalem says:

    this post actually made me go to the library. Our library has a horribly understocked children’s/young adult section, and I think I will probably despair if I can bring myself to look at their graphic novel collection.

  55. SarahSunshine says:

    I love our local library in Glendale, Arizona. Not only do they have books, CDs, DVDs,and online services, they have an auditorium with great free music programs. There’s also a coffee shop near the entrance, with lots of tables for the relaxing, reading, and recaffinating experience.

  56. weirdalfan27 says:

    My library is horribly outdated, so it’s pretty much useless for anything I’d want.