OverDrive and Libby - access your local library from home

Many libraries allow their patrons to access ebooks and audiobooks on their mobile devices and e-readers using tools and apps offered by third party providers.  Among the most popular of these are OverDrive, and it's reading app called Libby.  Using Libby to check out ebooks and audiobooks is particularly useful now that COVID-19 concerns mean that many of us are not visiting our local libraries as frequently. 
In this post I'll share some background on OverDrive and Libby, a bit about how they work, and links to some helpful videos to get you started.

OverDrive, Inc. has been working with libraries since 2002, when it launched Digital Libary Reserve, to provide a download platform for library patrons. 

According to their website OverDrive is currently being used by over 50,000 libraries in 78 countries.  Libraries sign up for OverDrive individually, or as members of a consortium of libraries.  The local library in my small town, for example, is part of the Great Lake Digital Libraries group.  Being a member of a group allows a smaller library to pool it's resources to be able to offer a larger selection of ebooks and audiobooks through OverDrive. 

OverDrive offers an OverDrive app, and an OverDrive website through which you can borrow books, as well as the Libby app, which is more specifically geared for portable devices like phones or tablets.


OverDrive's Libby app is an easy to use, convenient way to access your library's collection and choose reading materials to download to your device. Libby is available through Google Play, the Apple App Store and the Microsoft Store on Windows 10. 

Using Libby, audiobooks that you check out from your library will download directly to your device.  For ebooks, you have the option of downloading to your device or to your Kindle.  If you have multiple devices - a phone and a tablet for example - you can install Libby on each device and your library check outs will be available to download on any of your devices with the Libby app.

The Libby app is pretty straightforward to use.  Once you've downloaded the app to your device your first step will be to provide Libby with your library card, and then you'll be ready to check out your first book.

Keep in mind that Libby is giving you access to your local library (or group of libraries), and through Libby you are gaining access to the ebooks and audiobooks available from that specific library or libraries.  Libby will show you a selection from your library on the main screen, but you can sort, filter and search through the whole collection to find a book you would like to read.  The user interface is intuitive and easy to use, so getting to the type of books you like to read (say non-fiction audiobooks including only biographies and histories, and that are available for check out right now) is pretty quick.  Once you find a book you like, check it out and start reading (or listening)!  The book will be downloaded to your device so you can access it even if you're not connected to the internet.

Speaking of books being available for check out - just like when you go to your library in person, not every book you want to read will be on the library's shelves.  Even if the library has the book, someone else may have checked it out already.  

If the book you want is checked out, the good news is that you can still place the book on hold.  Libby will then notify you when the book is available for you to check out.  If it's a new or popular book you may end up being fourth or fifth in the on hold queue.  In that case, Libby will let you know when the book should be available, based on the number of people in line ahead of you, and the length of time allowed by your library to borrow the book.  If you decide to place a book on hold, Libby will notify you when it's ready for check out.

Video Tutorials

There are several videos out there that can help you get started with Libby and explain more about how the Libby app and the borrowing process works.  Your library may have a video of their own that you can reference, or your librarian may be able to point you to resources to help you get started. Barring that, a few videos that I think do a good job of explaining how to get going with Libby are listed below.  Just keep in mind that in these videos some of the details, like the checkout times for ebooks or audiobooks, may be specific to the library that produced the video.

  • One of the best Libby tutorial videos I've found was done by the Totowa Public Library of Totowa, NJ.  Their video (below) on "How to Use Libby by OverDrive to Access Digital Books and Audiobooks on your Phone or Tablet!" explains how to download the app and walks you through it's many features.  Their companion video, "How to Use OverDrive on your Computer to Access Digital Books and Audiobooks!" explaining how to use OverDrive on your computer, is also very good. 

  • This video from the Vaughan Public Libraries, in Vaughan, Ontario "How to use the Overdrive and Libby apps" starts with a humorous phone call between a librarian and his father talking about the difference between using OverDrive and the Libby app.  The video then goes into a tutorial on using OverDrive on your PC (starts at 1:56), and that's followed by their Libby tutorial (starts at 6:09).  

  • Upper Arlington Public Library (Upper Arlington, OH) has an excellent video on "How to Borrow Kindle Books with Libby".  The video shows how you can send individual books to your Kindle, or set your Kindle as your default reading device, as well as how to manage your library books from the Amazon website.

So, that's a quick introduction to OverDrive and Libby.  I use Libby mostly for audiobooks, but will occasionally get an ebook to read on my Kindle.  If you have a library card and haven't tried Libby yet, I recommend you give it a try.  If you don't have a library card, the Libby app can help you locate and get in contact with your public library to request a card.  Using Libby is a great way to get access to your next read at no cost to you, and without even having to leave the house.