5 Reasons to Binge-Request Books from the Library

Sarah S. Davis

Staff Writer

Sarah S. Davis holds a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master's of Library Science from Clarion University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Sarah has also written for Electric Literature, Kirkus Reviews, Audible, Psych Central, and more. Sarah is the founder of Broke By Books blog and runs a tarot reading business, Divination Vibration. Twitter: @missbookgoddess Instagram: @Sarahbookgoddess

I have a confession. I’m a serial binge-requester at my library.

Sometimes I’ll get going on a requesting spree. If I’m researching a topic or fleshing out a niche, there’s no limit to how many books I might request at once. One? One is child’s play. Five? Ha. Ten? That’s more like it.

I wasn’t always like this. Now a library science graduate student, it wasn’t until the last few years that I realized you even could request books from other libraries in the system, or beyond through interlibrary loan. Once I found out I didn’t have to travel to the far reaches of the county to get the single copy of that YA fantasy novel I was obsessed with, the flood gates opened wide. The era of binge requesting had begun.

And I don’t even feel bad about it. Going to the library with three empty tote bags (I recommend those from the Book Riot store), has made me an expert of shoving as much as 6-8 hold requests into the corners of the bags. Furthermore, requesting books from other libraries has so many benefits.

Here are my top 5 justifications for placing library holds.

  • It saves you money. This is perhaps the most obvious. For me, someone who is budget-conscious and an impoverished grad student, there’s no way I could afford to buy every book I want to read. With my lean wallet, placing holds on library books means I can save money and still consume books at a steady pace. Many libraries now print the monetary value of your savings through borrowing materials right on your receipt from circulation.
  • It is environmentally-friendly. Think how much gas you save each year by requesting books from other libraries rather than driving across the county to get just one book. Now, that’s not to say you shouldn’t go and visit other libraries. In fact, I play a sort of library bingo trying to see what all the libraries look like in my suburban Philadelphia system. But still, when I’m too broke to fill up the gas tank in my 2003 Subaru, especially when the air conditioning is broken (like now), I thank god the county-wide van stops by my library five days a week. And it is a way to reduce gas emissions. Requesting books from other libraries is a way to be friendly to your wallet, your aging car, and the ozone layer.
  • Free shipping and great delivery times. I used to be lured in by Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping speed, and admittedly I’m still a member. But suddenly the old gears in my brain started turning last year when I realized the library often had two-day if not one or same-day shipping speed—without the $99 Prime price tag. If you’re requesting a book that doesn’t have other holds and it’s a weekday, you can all but guarantee that you’ll get the book or other material fast, maybe even before Amazon or other online retailers would deliver it to your door.
  • It drives up circulation numbers. Once I read in Philadelphia magazine that our small-but-mighty library had the highest circulation in the county. Every time I go to pick up 8 holds that have come in for me, I try not to look at it as a manifestation of my bipolar mania but rather a way to increase our circulation numbers and, if the gods are good, help us get more money allotted for a bigger budget.
  • You can try before you buy. Sometimes I’ll be on the fence about the latest “it” book. With the price of books going up, it’s hard for me to justify dropping $20 on a new release, especially if it’s got mixed reviews or if the author is on my iffy-list. Requesting books from the library, however, lets me see if this is a book I really want to read, much less add to my personal collection or my near-sagging bookshelves. So many times I’ve requested a book and gotten through the first chapter thinking, dear god, I’m glad I didn’t buy this. Of course the inverse of that is sometimes you discover books that you have wouldn’t have bought, but definitely decide is going in the all-star upper echelon of your personal faves. Then you can purchase the book later on. This is one reason why requesting books is my jam.

    Are you a binge-requester? What was the most amount of holds you’ve ever requested or picked up at once?