CPL is Netflix for Books
I love libraries and I’ve been a proud Chicago Public Library card holder since I moved here. But while the CPL system has a ton of books, they’re spread out over all the different branches and it seemed that after a short while I had read all the books in my local branch that I was interested in. The central Harold Washington library has the most in one place, but it always seemed difficult to get there before they closed on a weekend. There may have been a way to request books from a different branch, but it wasn’t obvious and so I just… stopped stopping in at my local branch.
Recently, though, I discovered that the CPL has spiffed up their website with some features that make it a snap to get any book (or CD or DVD) in their catalog delivered (nearly) to your door.
You just log in to the “My CPL” section of the website with your library card number and zipcode (if you’ve moved and haven’t updated your info with the CPL, it might be an old zipcode) and then start searching the catalog for books. When you find one you want, click the “Place on Hold” button. It’ll ask if you want it held at your preferred library or a different one and you’re done. But here’s the magic part — “hold” in this case means “get it to my preferred library and then hold it there”. So the system will find a checked-in copy, dispatch a no-doubt-over-worked library employee to fetch it off the shelf, and then transport it to your local library. With 79 branches, there’s bound to be one just blocks, nay mere steps from your front door. (OK, maybe I’m spoiled since I’m literally a half-block from our local branch.) When the book arrives you get a rather bare-bones email (it doesn’t actually tell you which held item has come in — but you can always go back to the website to check) and you have 9 days to stop in and pick it up.
Obviously, there’s still a wait for popular books — on my last visit the librarian informed me that I was number 745 on the waiting list for the CPL’s 121 copies of Twilight. But you can have up to five holds going at once, so I’ve got other books coming while I wait to find out what all the vampire fuss is about.