FROM LYNN O’MALLEY: I’d seen the invitation so often, I’d long ago stopped seeing it. You know the one – the “Suggest a Purchase” button on the North Van Library website.

Usually, I’m happy to have any excuse to purchase my own books, as my groaning shelves will attest. But over the past year, in an attempt to actually live within my means – now there’s a concept – I have been relying even more on our library collection. (Also, I actually had to do a modified duck-and-roll manoeuvre in bed the other night, when the three-foot stack of unread books on my nightstand came crashing down in my direction…. another sign, perhaps, that my buying abilities long ago exceeded my actual reading capacity.)

So when I saw an intriguing title reviewed in the Vancouver Sun a couple of months back, rather than reaching for my wallet I went to the library to see if I could put it on hold. And when the computer told me that particular book wasn’t in their holdings, my gaze fell upon that ever-present “Suggest a Purchase” tab.

Why not, thought I, and entered the requisite info. I didn’t think too much more about it, until one day only a few weeks later, when I received an email saying the book was not only purchased, it was waiting for me at the hold desk. What service! Never were our municipal tax dollars better spent.

Now I was curious – how many titles does the library custom-order for people? Will they buy just ANYTHING for you? Do they put limits on the number of books each of us is able to request in a lifetime?

David Johnstone, audiovisual coordinator in the Lynn Valley Library, was kind enough to answer many of my questions. “Last year we received over 2,800 suggestions from patrons,” he told me in an email. “Of these, we purchased over 80% of the titles suggested that were actually available to order.”

Suggestions included books (for adults, children and teens, in regular and large print); dvds, music cds, and audiobooks.

In general, David said, the titles that are ordered are (1) recently published (although they do purchase classic items as well), (2) available in Canada, (3) of general interest and (4) have received positive professional reviews.  Patrons can suggest purchases from home via the library website, or at any Information Desk in the branches.

“And – as you know – patrons who suggest an item that is purchased will be the first to borrow it when it arrives,” he noted.

But curling up with “my” new book wasn’t the end of the story. I wasn’t able to finish it by the end of the loan period, so I logged into the library website to renew it. Imagine my thrill when I found I couldn’t – some other North Vancouverite had placed a hold on it!

I was glad to find out I hadn’t wasted library budget dollars by asking them to buy a book that I thought might have a limited audience. Whoever my book-buddy is out there, I hope you enjoyed the read – I know I liked the first few chapters! I’ve checked it out again, and this time I’ll finish it!

Do you love your library? Then make sure you come out to the Friends of the Library Book Sale, happening on Lynn Valley Day weekend at the end of May. All details are on our Events Calendar.