Get (Almost) Any Books, CDs, and DVDs For Free Via Interlibrary Loan Programs

You can order just about any book, CD, or DVD, and have it accessible within a few days to a week–for free. That’s right! Hear about a book, CD, or DVD somewhere, read about it online? Look it up on Amazon, or WorldCat–then utilize that magic service unknown to many people–your local library’s Interlibrary Loan service, through which you local library can get you books, CDs, and DVDs that it may not itself carry–it can borrow these items from statewide and nationwide networks of libraries that cooperate to share items.

Many libraries have forms you can fill out online, through which you can request items–and often the library will have it delivered from other libraries and available within a few days or weeks. Downsides are a sometimes long-ish wait, some books, especially rare books aren’t available, some libraries don’t lend their audio-video materials through ILL, and often you can only renew the items once. But overall it’s a great, great, underutilized service. And you can team up with people to rotate ILL requests so that you can have books continuously or almost continuously checked out, if you work it out right–when your borrowing period for an item is almost halfway up, perhaps sooner or later, have someone else put in an ILL request for the item, to try to have it come in right before your copy is due. It’s great for students who may want to have access to a bunch of reference materials, study guides, and technical items beyond the scope of their public library–I’ve ILL’d textbooks before to save a few hundred per semester when it was a book that was recommended but not mandatory and not a book I’d like to keep.

You can ILL books before deciding to buy them later, to give them a test run. I do this all the time. I actually saw a TV news segment with some financial advisor describing ways to save money in this economy, and she actually mentioned getting books and CDs and DVD through libraries–interlibrary loan services are a way to get any item in often a nation-wide library system (check WorldCat), as most libraries’ collections vary widely from library to library. Public libraries often can ILL you books from university libraries, local college libraries, local branch libraries, and even out of state libraries (though there might be a small fee sometimes to borrow out of state books, it probably depends on the library). Find an interesting book on Google Books or some interesting film on YouTube? ILL it and get the paper version or video version–for free!

Pictures from the El Paso Public Library and the University of Utah library system.

BTW libraries often have cool electronic research databases you can access with your library card, sometimes from home–I really wish they would advertise these more prominently on their websites, it would definitely up the access to useful, credible information for people, many of whom complain about the trustworthiness or quality of free information on the internet. I wonder if many bloggers take advantage of free online research database access through their local public libraries?  I’ve looked for a Web 2.0 kind of app that can find electronic resources across many different libraries: so far I’ve come up with searching for the resource by limiting the “Format” field in the WorldCat advanced search to “Internet Resources,” then you can add other refinements to your search from there.  Now, I should probably work on an interface to this with Google maps, that would be cool if it doesn’t exist yet…

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