Here’s a semi-secret tip for people who are in a big rush to get their hands on recent books but need a long time to read them.
Ordinarily you have to put your name on the holds list for a new book, or for any item that somebody else is already using. For very popular titles, the holds list stretches to infinity.
I just checked the Harry Potter books, thinking those would be obvious examples, and found about 170 copies each and fewer than ten holds. The Associate by John Grisham has 415 copies and 780 holds, which won’t translate into a huge wait. All right, so maybe the problem isn’t as bad as I thought.
In fact, the real problem might be new books of which the library has one or two copies. Put 30 people on the list for those and you’re waiting the better part of a year (assuming full three-week loans for each copy, which won’t always be the case).
What’s the solution? The Browsery. That’s the non-obvious name for the ground-floor sections at the Toronto Reference Library (TRL) and the North York Central Library (CL). Many items there (all of them at TRL) cannot be requested via holds. You can’t put a hold on them. But they’re sitting right there on the shelf. (You can use the online catalogue to check the list of library holdings for the title you want; look for Browsery at either of those branches. Or just drop by and paw through what’s there.)
Because nobody can place a hold on them, once you’ve checked out a Browsery item it’s all yours for as long as the borrowing period might be. With renewals, that’s nine weeks for a book or CD and three weeks for a DVD. If it’s a low-demand item, you can return it after those nine or three weeks and check it out again for another nine or three weeks.
The downside? You absolutely have to visit in person. It’s like an oldschool library: You have to go there to check out the book.
Beating the system? Not quite. That’s how the system is set up. Use it!