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Keep Track of (Public) Library Books with Library Elf

Stack of BooksMy family and I are inveterate public library patrons. Between us we have four library cards, and we visit the library several times a week, often checking out more books than we are returning. At any given time we have between 50 and 100 library books checked out. All those books are great, but with so many, and with so many different due dates, how do we keep track of them all?

My public library—like most public libraries—has an email reminder service, as well as a great website and even mobile app. But with four different accounts it’s cumbersome to log in and out of each account, and even more difficult to keep up with the emails each account generates. Instead, I use Library Elf, a service that keeps track of all my family’s library cards in one spot. With one quick login to Library Elf, I see what’s happening with all of my family’s library cards, what’s due when, and even what items we have requested and what’s on hold.

Furthermore, you can configure Library Elf to deliver an email report of all your due dates, before the books are due. I especially like how the emails highlight which of your books are due in the next three days. Library Elf can also send text messages (a feature I turned off, considering the perpetually rolling due dates of our dozens of books). Finally, Library Elf generates an iCAL feed you can subscribe to with your favorite calendar program (like Outlook or Google Calendar).

Library Elf offers a free version, which includes some of these features, and for only one library card. What I consider to be the most essential features—pre-due and overdue email reminders—are included in this basic version. But the premium version, which supports multiple library cards, text messaging, RSS and calendar feeds, costs $20/year.

Is it worth it?

For my family, definitely. We’ve been using Library Elf for five or so years, and recently I purposely let our premium subscription lapse, just to see how much I depended on it. Almost immediately I felt overwhelmed by the number of books I had to keep track of. In fact, I couldn’t keep track of them all. We had overdue books, and fines. Lots of overdue books. Lots of fines. I renewed our premium subscription.

Note that Library Elf supports hundreds of public library systems, but not all of them. If your library isn’t part of the Library Elf system but it uses either a Polaris PowerPac or Dynix catalog system, it can likely be added to Library Elf. It’s also worth noting that a number of public libraries offer a premium Library Elf subscription to their patrons for free (these libraries appear in bold on the library list).

Do you use Library Elf? Or do you have another way of keeping track of your public library books? What works for you?

Stack of Books photograph courtesy of Flickr user Wonderlane / Creative Commons Licensed

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