Finding the Books without Filing for Bankruptcy

February 28, 2011

We all know that when you have a child with special needs, you tend to have a lot of additional costs.  There are the medications, the therapies, perhaps glasses or orthotics – and if those don’t get you, the parking fees for all the appointments you’ll be attending will!  How do we then get a hold of resources, some of which we might only read or view once, without breaking the bank?


1. Register for a library card

As a librarian, I have people regularly ask me if people still use the library.  The answer is ABSOLUTELY!  The library is full of people all the time. It’s a busy place with a lot to offer.  Once you get your card, make sure you know what the library owns.  Just because you don’t see a book on the shelf does not mean it is not available. It might be at another branch, or it might be checked out.  Talk to those nice people at the information desks, and they will let you know.

Libraries like to share, and they often collaborate with other library systems.  Find out if your card will allow you to use any other libraries.  For example,  with my card, I have access to all the materials in 5 different library systems.  That’s a lot of free books. 

If the library does not own the book you’re looking for, and it has been published in the past 18 months or so, ask the librarians if they will consider purchasing it for the library.  Commonly customers ask if they have to pay. No, you do not have to pay. The library pays. We buy the book; you borrow it. It’s a good deal.  You can also make this request for other materials, such as DVDs. The worst that can happen is that they say no, but it is not an unusual request. You’re the taxpayer, and libraries want to purchase what you need.

If it’s an older book, ask your library if they might do an interlibrary loan. This means they bring the book in from another city’s library.  Sometimes there is a fee for this service if the lending institution charges your library, but it’s usually a lot less than the cost of the book. 

2.  Find out if any of the local hospitals or children’s treatment centres you are frequenting have resources to lend

Many of the centres where we take our children for medical appointments or services have books and videos to lend as well. There may be an annual fee to join this type of library, but it usually isn’t very high.  Your public library may be hesitant to order materials that will only be relevant to a limited number of individuals in the community, but a  medical library will serve those more unique health information needs.

3. Contact your local Down syndrome association

If there is a Down syndrome organization in your city, ask them if they have any materials you can borrow.  If they don’t, you may be able to connect with families who have books they would like to swap or sell.  Some associations have online communities now where you could inquire about certain items.  Often people are more than willing to share!

4. Check out Google Books

Have you noticed the links at the top of the Google Home page?  Have a look for “Books” the next time you search for something.  Through Google Books, we now have access to the full text of approximately seven million items. If you  are looking for an older item and are having trouble finding it because it is out of print, you may just find it online at Google Books.  

For example, I was interested in having a look at a book written by Jason Kingsley, the son of Emily Perl Kingsley who wrote the essay ”Welcome to Holland”.  As a young man, Jason co-authored a book called Count us In, which was first published in 1997. Because of its age, it just won’t be on the shelves of most libraries today.  However, the full text of most of this book is right there on Google Books. Have a look! 

In the end, you may decide that the library loan period is too short or the online version won’t allow adequate use of the book you require.  However, by getting your hands on the book either by borrowing it or viewing it over the internet, you can make a more educated decision about whether you really need to shell out the cash to buy it.

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