My friend, Meghan, loves books but I just found out she doesn’t have a library card. She explained her reason for not having a library card was, “I get one every few years. I go and get a book or two but they never really impress me. Then I let it expire.”
That’s when I realized that Meghan, like lots and lots of my fellow book-loving Miamians, doesn’t know some super simple tricks for using Miami Dade’s Public Libraries.
There was a time where I too didn’t know the modern ways of our local libraries. I had similar experiences to Meghan; but then, many years ago I ran out of money and needed to read free books to distract me from the fact that I had no money and also maybe even so that I could learn how to not run out of money again in the future (spoiler alert: I did learn and I mostly don’t run out of money anymore, hooray).
My number one gripe about the whole library thing in this modern world was the fact that I had to actually go to a library, and then walk around looking for stuff, and mostly not finding what I was looking for, and then randomly selecting something that was or was not great. I don’t mind doing this once in a blue moon but I have limited reading time and I want to make the most of it. So, here is how you make the library work for you!
Step 1: Obtain a library card
You have to go to a Miami Dade library branch, find one closest to you right this very moment by clicking here, with your photo ID that confirms you’re a resident of Miami Dade. Fill out the application and get your library card. While you’re there, you can browse and remind yourself how not productive that experience is. You can also ask your librarian where the shelves are for the Hold Requests. Some libraries keep them behind the counter and the librarians pull them for you, while other libraries keep them out front and you pull them yourself. You will also want to take note of where the Self Check Out computers are. Once you do all that, you are now ready to go home and use the library the Mutant Supermodel way.
Optional Step 1a: Prepare a List
Once you do the hard work of getting your library card, you want to be able to use it right away and to do that I suggest you prepare a list of what you want to read. You might even HAVE a list already, like your giant Amazon Wishlist that’s 75% books or maybe you have a Goodreads account with a To-Read list that’s looking slightly challenging. If you don’t have either of those, you can refer to a list like Time’s 100 best novels of the 21st century or this awesome list of 50 great books written by women. Check out Oprah’s Book Club. Write down all the books you can think of as fast as you can. Use MY Goodreads list as a reference. Either way, have a list. I would suggest a good mix of new and old stuff.
Step 2: Register Online
When you get home, or to your office, or to your school, or anywhere you can get computer access, get online and register your library card by clicking here. If you have kids and you were an awesome parent and got THEM library cards too, you can register them individually as well so that they too may use the library the Mutant way. They will also most likely find out cool things much faster than you and then teach you the cool things so it’s a win-win. Once you’ve registered your card, log-in with your library card and pin number and get ready to rock.
Step 3: Preferences
When you log-in, you need to make sure you have your contact info and preferences set up. I am not sure if with a new registration you are prompted to do this or if you have to go and do it yourself. I am going to assume you have to do it yourself and show you what’s important to know here. If you get the welcome screen, click on Contact Information and Preferences.
What you want to pay attention to is the email and phone number stuff. Make sure that is correct and decide how you want to receive library notices. I really like the email way. They can also call you or text you. I don’t suggest mailing address because that’s just silly.
Also, here you can ask them to maintain your reading list. I did not know that until now. If you want to remember all the books you read, check that box. They’ll tell you that law enforcement will be able to get that info if you check that box. If you don’t care, proceed. If you do care, cancel. Once you’re done updating, click Sumbit Change Request and get ready to rock.
Step 4: Search
Place your mouse over where it says Explore in the top rightish section of the black menu bar. Then, click Quick Search under Catalog. I am going to search for a relatively new and popular book called In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.
When you start typing, you will notice Quick Search uses Auto Complete so I will be lazy and click the Auto Complete suggestion. And boom there it is! Everything I need to know about this book for my purposes is right there. I can see that it is super popular because it has 15 copies and 139 holds. See why I told you to have a mix of new and old stuff?
139 sounds like a lot but with 15 copies it goes really fast. You can’t renew books that have hold requests on them so people have 30 days to read them and the library will only hold your copy for you for one week. So I’m going to jump into the party and click Place Request.
You then select which library branch you want to pick up your copy at. The default is where you got your library card at but you can make it whichever branch you want. There’s a box at the bottom that says Activation Date and it’s set to today’s date. This can be useful if you are placing a BUNCH of requests and want to stagger them so they don’t come in all at once. Since there are SO many requests for this book and you’re just getting started, I would leave this as is. But it’s a good tool to know about for when you get addicted and go Request Crazy (it’s only a matter of time).
Once you do that, you click Submit Request. The library will find it hard to believe you are a patient soul and tell you that there are 139 active requests for this book and make sure you really want to request it. You, being the masochistic book lover you are, will click CONTINUE because YOLO.
You will then get a confirmation of your request and a reminder in red at the top that if you don’t pick up your book within one week of them notifying you, you will be charged ONE DOLLAR and lose your book. I like that they made it a sad face at the end. ):
At the bottom, you can choose to go back to your Search Results, go to your List of Hold Requests, or Log Out. My suggestion is you go back to your Search Results because that’s how you continue searching for more books.
When you click that, you might not see the Search bar. It’s there, it’s just hiding and you have to scroll up to find it. Delete what you searched for and type in something new! You just do that until you are satisfied requesting books and then you Logout and wait a few days for your notifications to come in. If you have a Kindle or like reading eBooks then, there’s more work to do!
Step 5: eBooks
At the top of the page again, hover over My Account and click OverDrive under Digital Media. There are other options to click in this section too and I’ve heard they’re great but I haven’t used them yet even though I really need to figure out that Zinio thing because I heard it’s amazing.
Click on Account and login with the your library card and pin number. You can checkout TEN ebooks and place holds on TEN more (or audio books but I don’t use those so I don’t know anything about them). The selection here is much more limited so I would go here with a more open mind to trying stuff out and with a longer list.
The good thing is when you click Menu you can see all kinds of easy ways to browse some collections including Most Popular which I’m going to click. If you have a Kindle, you can narrow your search down by pressing the plus sign next to Format. Click Kindle Book.
Ok so you will notice there are some books with black book icons on them and some with gray. The black ones are the ones you can download right now, the gray ones are the ones you can place holds for. It’s like a real book– there’s a limit to how many digital copies the library has.
Because I think of the Kindle as my Ultimate Instant Gratification Device, I further filter it down to books Available Now. And there, right at my fingertips are all the books I can get on my Kindle RIGHT NOW.
Hover over the one you like and press Borrow. At the top, the book pops up, you click Go to Bookshelf. You then click Download and you select what format you want. I want a Kindle Book. So I click that check box and then at the bottom I click Confirm and Download.
At that point, it connects to Amazon and will likely have you login. You do that and and it takes you to the book on Amazon. If you’re ready to read it RIGHT NOW, you click the yellow button that says Get Library Book on the right hand side and you choose what device you want to send it to. After that, it follows normal Kindle procedures!
If you have a device that’s not the Kindle just click on the Help button next to the Search Bar and then click OverDrive Help. You can search or you can scroll down for some guides.
Step 6: Read, Read, Read Some More
That’s it! Read your ten eBooks on your Kindle while you wait for your library to notify you about your books waiting for you. When your notice comes in, get to your library within the one week grace period and find those shelves you asked your librarian about. My favorites are the ones where you do it yourself because I feel like a total Book Ninja grabbing them, going over to the Self Check Out computers, checking them out, and sauntering out of the library in less than ten minutes. Maybe smile and wave at your librarian as you saunter out, “Have a great day!”
Now that you have read this ridiculous guide, you have NO excuse to be a library card carrying member of Miami Dade Society. So enjoy and Happy Reading!
P.S. You’re welcome, Meghan!