By Kristin Milks, Librarian and OveDrive Collection Development Analyst

FullSizeRenderAt Digipalooza back in August, Holly Varley, the Materials Selection and Acquisition Manager from The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, talked about her library’s use of what she has dubbed “Zombie Penguins”.

When we were approaching the one-year expiration date of our first Penguin or Simon & Schuster titles (12 month time metered) in our OverDrive collection, I started to wonder how we could effectively replace them.  We didn’t want to buy everything again, or even replace every last copy.  But we did want to buy what customers needed and requested.

Holly’s idea created a new way to order metered content efficiently so that instead of spending money re-purchasing titles that patrons are ignoring, they can use that money to spend on new content. Even though the titles expired, they still show up on the patron facing site, so patrons are still able to place holds.

We did have a few customers confused by their hold position:  “A customer has holds on OverDrive ebooks that say his Holds position is #2 of 0 copies. So does this mean he won’t ever be able to check out this ebook?” 

But we cleared it up:  “No, it just means the 12 month licenses for these titles have expired. We create a weekly holds report that identifies these and we purchase them each week. He should see the items available to him by Tuesday evening. We call these titles “zombies,” since they reanimate when a customer gets close enough to place a hold.”

So here’s how YOU can do purchase zombie holds too!

  1. Login to Marketplace and create a pinned search

Go to ‘Advanced Search’ and ‘Holdings’. Under ‘Advanced Search’ first choose ‘In Collection & 0 checkouts remaining’.


Then look directly to the right and find ‘Holds’. Choose 1 or more.


At the bottom of the page choose ‘Save’, name the search and check the box ‘Pin’ at the bottom if you’d like to see it directly on the left side navigation panel on the homepage. If you do not check the box it will be under the ‘All saved searches’ facet.


Now you can create a second pinned search for ‘In collection & 0 days remaining’ by doing the steps above, but choosing ‘In collection & 0 days remaining’.

  1. Run your searches on a weekly basis to check and see if your patrons are putting expired metered content on hold, so that you may purchase it for them.

Easy-peasy! You are done!

This is what Cincinnati and Hamilton County Public Library System has to say about their revolutionary process:

This system has worked extremely well for us.  We make selection decisions once for the titles, and simply purchase replacements to meet demand whenever it appears.  It is a great use of time and budget.  We love our zombies!

After hearing about the process at Digipalooza, Los Angeles Public Librarian, Peggy Murphy, decided to start doing it herself:

Zombie Holds are the next best thing to sliced bread!  We no longer have to spend our budget re-purchasing material that is no longer popular or guess whether it still has merit.  I get a Zombie Hold cart every week and buy this metered material.  The money I save goes toward purchasing new material.  I love Zombie Holds!

Need I go on? I think not. If you have questions about Zombie Holds or would like a weekly cart created for your library, please contact your Collection Development Specialist!