Free College Textbook Search: One Secret to Millions of Books

The first day of school approaches, and you still have a college textbook search in the works, perhaps? You haven't found all the books you need right? Maybe you plan to spend a while online or at your college bookstore? Then think about this idea, and you may save yourself some green. As in money.





The Book Network You’ve Never Seen

I’m sure you know that libraries offer free books that you can take home and use – that’s what libraries do. But did you know you libraries network?

Libraries have networks like anybody else, and they have access to each other’s books. I have used this service many times when looking for a hard to find book in my town, all through my little county library.

College and university libraries have even better networks, but they work the same. To access the books at another library, you have to know the code name. It’s I-L-L, or Inter Library Loan.

How Can ILL help you with you College Textbook Search?

Think of your library as a free textbook superstore. You go in, you look around, and check out a book. They have current magazines, tons of books, reference materials, and more.

Now, add in interlibrary loan. You go to your favorite store, like Best Buy, for example. You pick out a big screen TV, and ask about inventory. The salesperson says that they are out, no more until the second Tuesday of next month. But you might be able to get it at another store in the next county…

Interlibrary loan works the same way, but you will be accessing libraries across the country. Different libraries will have different books, so you end up with many more titles available. I have used ILL for years, and I have had books from both coasts and other places in between.





How Do You Use ILL?

You can go into your favorite library and ask for help with interlibrary loan - or ILL. When my local library doesn't have a book I want, I fill out a request for interlibrary loan, and often find the book I need.

A college or university library should have an ILL clerk in the main library. If not, you may have to fill out a form online or make a short telephone call.

Possible Drawbacks

When you make an ILL request, you may have to wait a while to hear whether another library will lend you the book. As I understand it, a librarian sends the request to the other libraries in their network and waits for one to respond, willing to send the book.

Also, I'd like to think that all librarians know about ILL, but that's not the case. You may have to talk to the library manager to request a book. Some libraries have a big sign and a special desk for ILL. At small branch libraries, you may already know more about ILL from this short article than the clerk ;)

ILL may come with a fee of a couple of dollars. Usually, I haven't had to pay any fee at all. I have found that it varies by the library. Still, compared to a regular book, this cost will beat your college textbook search.

Short checkout periods - ILL may have a shorter checkout period, as short as two weeks. That may not give you much time, but remember it is a free used textbook while you have it. Also, libraries that participate in ILL trust you to bring back the book!

What Textbooks will Libraries have?

The books available will depend on the library. If you need a classic like the Odyssey or the Iliad, or just about any Shakespeare play or recent novel, you can find it. Doing a college textbook search may be less likely. Still submit your titles and authors and see what you get.

Did you know that only a few percent of the population even has a library card? As a student, your student ID covers you. Just think, all those books waiting to be checked out, and no one to take them home…

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