5 Secret Library Hacks {+ Bonus Digital Resources & Services Too!}

Did you know that the second week in April is National Library Week? I use the library almost exclusively for reading, and I thought I knew what it had to offer. I was wrong! In doing research for this post, I discovered plenty more hacks, resources, and services that I’m going to use immediately. Of course, I’m going to share them with you too! Here are my best tips {both common and lesser-known} for making the most out of your local library.

It's National Library Week :: Make the Most of Your Library | Houston Moms Blog

Library Hacks

  • Sign Up to Library Elf – If you are someone who is always racking up fines or like to check out a lot of items, then you need this! Library Elf is an independent service that keeps track of what’s due, overdue, and ready for pickup. You can link one or more accounts and set up custom reminders via email or text.
  • Freeze Your Holds – Placing a hold is Library 101. Book people know the pain of having multiple holds become available at the same time, and not being able to finish them all before they are due again – especially if there is a long wait list. But did you know you can suspend your holds? So if you will be out of town, or have too many other books to finish but don’t want to lose your place in line, you can place a freeze and then resume it when you’re ready.
  • Install Google Chrome Library Extension – Install this extension on your browser {Firefox coming soon, FYI}, and whenever you come across a book in the wild, it will pop up and let you know how many copies are available at your local library. You can even place a hold straight from there!
  • Use Interlibrary Loan & Suggest Purchases – These are the best two ways to get your hands on a book that your library doesn’t have. First, try interlibrary loan which is easy, and if available, fairly quick. If that doesn’t work, you can always suggest a purchase. Libraries are very responsive to this and almost always come through.
  • Join Multiple Libraries – You can join multiple library systems in the Houston area, not just the closest one. Their availability and policies are different {for digital content as well}, so you have more options. For example, I am a member of Houston Public Library, Harris County Public Library, and the Fort Bend County Library. Their checkout lengths and renewal policies are all different and so is the size of their collections, so I use them for different things.

It's National Library Week :: Make the Most of Your Library | Houston Moms Blog

Digital Resources

  • Apps – Libraries connect with apps to provide digital content. Try Overdrive, Axis 360, Hoopla, and OneClickdigital for ebooks, audiobooks, even some movies, TV shows, and music. Flipster gets you magazines, ComicsPlus has comics, and Freegal offers music streaming. Tumblebooks are fun, animated books for kids.
  • Scholarly Databases – Are you in grad school, or have kids doing research? Your local library has access to many scholarly databases which you can easily search from online.


  • Librarians – They know a lot of stuff and really want to help! In addition to asking them anything about books or the resources and services they offer, you could also ask them for local recommendations, information about the community, or research requests about history or genealogy.
  • Community Services – The library offers SO MUCH of this – I won’t even be able to list it all. There is something for every age including classes, tutoring, and clubs in hundreds of subjects. They offer free practice for standardized tests, yoga, and movie nights. You can even get help with your taxes or passport. The library is basically amazing.
  • Personal Reading List – Do you want to read more, but you don’t know what? Answer a few questions for your librarian, and he or she will create a personal reading list for you. I’m dying to try this.
  • Unusual Resources – You’ll find way more than just books at the library. FLIP kits are for parents + kids and contain a book and supplies to do an activity. Depending on your library, you might also be able to check out media players, cake pans, seeds, puppets, board games, or even more strange things.

Are you inspired to visit your library this month? And what’s missing from this list? We’d love to hear if you have a genius library hack!


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