Libby: Guidelines for Using the App to Optimal Effect (Without Excessive Anxiety)

Emily Wenstrom

Staff Writer

By day, Emily Wenstrom is a content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstorm, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.. Her Chronicles of the Third Realm War series includes Mud (#1), Tides (#2), Rain (#0), and more to come. Follow her on Twitter @ejwenstrom.

Most of us know about Libby by now—or at least, the ones in close proximity to me do, because I talk about it a little too much. In fairness to me, it’s a pretty great app.

Libby lets you access your library’s digital book options through your phone. Most notably, Libby makes listening to audiobooks on your phone as easy as Audible, but without the monthly subscription or credit limits.


But like most magic, there is indeed a catch. Sometimes the selection of audiobooks is limited. And sometimes, you must get on a waitlist before listening.

Which can be where this gets messy—there’s nothing quite like waiting for weeks for your book, only to have five all become available within a matter of days.

Frankly, it’s rude.

And it can cause some level of stress as I try to get through them all before the library steals them all back from me.

So, I’ve picked up a few guidelines to help optimize use of the app with minimal reader anxiety.

1. Don’t Max Out Your Hold List

Libby lets you put as many as 15 audiobooks on hold at once.

And look. I know. It’s tempting. When I first started on Libby, I turned my holds into an extension of my Goodreads To Read list. It’s there, might as well use it, I thought. And it’s just so tempting—15 whole books all nicely queued up, and you’re already in line to read them all.

But let me tell you what happens next when you do that.

You still don’t have anything to listen to now, because wait lists. But in two weeks you’ll have six books suddenly available, all at once.

And they’ll just start disappearing off your phone again before you even get to most of them. Even though you’re maxing out every second of listening time you can find—listening while doing dishes, listening while taking out the trash, listening—yes—while in the shower.

You still won’t get to them all.

So do yourself a favor and refrain from queueing up title after title until your wait list is full. It’s a recipe for disaster. All you’ll be left with is a long list of titles you didn’t get to finish.

Which brings me to guideline #2

2. Let it Go

When your Libby queue gets out of control—and it can be hard to predict, because you’re relying on strangers to adhere to average reading turnaround times—sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.

It’s okay. Send that an occasional book back without getting to it. You have three other books available to keep you busy already, and there’s like eight people waiting to read it next. It’s just being a good library citizen.

When I get myself into this pickle (a semi-frequent occurrence—do as I say, not as I do) I have to make some hard choices. But it takes the pressure off, so I can better enjoy the ones I get through—and someone else can enjoy the others.

Then I put those lost books right back into my hold queue, hopefully to resurface at a better time.

3. Use Goodreads to Update Your Progress Tag

There was one book I got really hooked on and then realized I wouldn’t have time to finish it before the library stole it back off my phone.

No, I don’t want to talk about it.

What hurt most was not even that I’d have to wait several seek to access the book again. It was that I had no idea if I’d be able to pick up where I left off. This is, honestly, still TBD.

But in a pinch, I realized I can use Goodreads’s Update Your Progress feature to pseudo-bookmark my place. And this took a huge amount of anxiety away.

This book will come back to me someday. And I will be ready for it.

4. Space Out Your Holds

Because popular titles are often have long wait lists, if you want to max out your reads, you’ll need to keep a running list of holds in your queue. Which, of course, increases your risk of a backlog. But a slight amount of overlap is to your advantage—it means you won’t have down time between reads.

To truly optimize this delicate balance (and what is reading about if not intense, meticulous optimization), I have learned to space out my hold requests. This helps control where you are in the queue and reduces the stress of having too many hit in the same high time frame.

Libby is great and not actually stressful.

I truly love Libby. I know my Type A description makes it sound intense, but it’s a fantastic tool and in the hands of someone less wound up, I don’t know, maybe you don’t even need rules.

I need rules.

But all the same, Libby has been an incredible game changer for my reading habits, and it’s already let me get through a lot more books, more quickly, without sacrificing enjoyment.

There’s nothing I love more than to take in a book via headphones, hands-free, while on a run or commuting on metro. And Libby has let me do that without creating a budget line for it, and has kept me flush with great options.

Happy reading, listeners.