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How I Slowed the Flood of Library Holds

Teresa Preston

Staff Writer

Since 2008, Teresa Preston has been blogging about all the books she reads at Shelf Love. She supports her book habit by working as a magazine editor at a professional association in the Washington, DC, area, which is (in)conveniently located just a few steps from a used bookstore. When she’s not reading or editing, she’s likely to be attending theatre, practicing yoga, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer again, or doting on her toothless orange cat, Anya. Twitter: @teresareads

It’s a familiar problem for library users. You put a new book or two on hold. They have long hold lists, so you know it’ll be a while before you see them. Next week, you add another book or two. And one more. And another.

And then the e-mails start coming. A hold has come in! And another! And another…

Next thing you know, you have a dozen books to pick up all at once. And they’re due in three weeks (or two if your library is like mine and has shorter loan periods for popular new books). There’s no way you’ll get them all read. You can’t renew most of them because others have them on hold.

Friends, I have found a solution. Perhaps it will work for you!

My library allows users to suspend holds, meaning that you can say you don’t want a book to be made available to you until a set date, but you don’t lose your place in line. I used to use this feature when I was going on vacation, but now I use it all. the. time.

Screenshot of Library Hold List with Suspend Holds Feature

This is how the system works in my library catalog. Yours might be different, so explore for yourself to see how it works.

When I put a book on hold, I immediately go to the holds list and click “Suspend Hold(s)” (circled in the screenshot above). I then suspend the hold on the book until I think I’ll have time to read it. By hovering over the calendar icon, I can see what date the hold for each book will end.

Screenshot of Library Suspend Holds Feature

So I set the start date for the hold suspension for the current date and set the end date for the next “available” date in my library reading schedule. My usual method is to give myself one book from my holds list each week. I typically read one or two books a week, so that gives me room to read books from my shelves, too.

Each week, a new book comes off suspension and is usually available for me within a few days. Sometimes all the copies are checked out, so I have to wait a bit, but the flood of holds generally stays at about a book a week. It’s perfect.

However, as great as this has been, this method has created a new problem. I have books scheduled to come off hold months and months from now. As I write in mid-April, I have books scheduled through late September. I suppose this at least helps me stay realistic about how much reading I can do, instead of mindlessly adding more books to my holds list and only then realizing (yet again) that I can’t read everything.