Libraries are Cool!

I keep a detailed budget sheet in Excel that records every expenditure we make, or as close to it as possible. In the year 2011, my household of 4 spent over $3,700 for books. Ouch! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you can ever have too many books, but you can most definitely have too little money. While our debt is $0, that still is a crazy amount of money to spend on books if you’re not rich. So I decided to rediscover the library this year.

I drove on over to the local public library, got myself a library card and proceeded to check out a bunch of books. Then I added my name to the waiting lists of several other books. And I now remember why I love the library.

  • The smell of books. There is nothing quite like that smell of books that have been read by hundreds of people. I embrace my inner nerd and am not embarrassed to say that occasionally, in the middle of reading, I will pause to smell the pages of the book. I get some weird looks when I do it in public, but who cares? It’s one of my things.
  • The sound of library bound books. You know what I’m talking about. A lot of hardcover library books have the cellophane type slipcase. It’s awesome. I love the feel of it on my hands when I hold the book. I love the sound of it when it moves in my hand. It gives me flashbacks of elementary school- the teacher checks out a book from the library, I am sitting on a carpet in the middle of the classroom with all my classmates, eating graham crackers and drinking milk, listening to the teacher read a book. Every time she pans the book around so that we can all see the picture or slightly moves the book as she turns the page, you hear the crunch crunch crunch the library binding makes. And if you are close enough, you can smell the coffee on her breath as she reads out loud. Priceless memories…
  • You might think placing something on hold, only to find out there is a waiting list and you are 150 on that list would be a bad thing. But I am here to give you a whole new perspective. I never thought I would say this but, back in the old days… there was no Internet. There was no such thing as renewing books online. And there was certainly no such thing as checking your hold status online. Now there is. This is an election year, and I am more excited when I log into the library system to check my position on the hold list. I don’t play the lottery, but for a book nerd like me, it is what I would imagine it feels like to watch as the little ping pongy balls come down the tube to see if your number is up. Except that instead of winning $150,000,000, you get to borrow a book (usually for only two weeks because you can’t renew a book that has a waiting list). Way better, right?
  • Used book sales rock! My library has a monthly sale and a little shop with used books that is open all the time. I got a hardback copy of Blood Red Road that looked like it had only been read once and paid only $1 for it. CRAZY! It was awesome. And for those of you who think used book sales are boring, I beg to differ. Local used bookstores send someone to the monthly library book sale to snatch up some good deals. These people show up with bins. At one library used book sale, two book store employees almost came to punches. I AM NOT EXAGGERATING! They had squared off and were yelling in each other’s face while the rest of us watched, a little bit shocked. It turns out that their bins were identical. One employee accidentally started placing books in the other employee’s bin and when he realized his mistake, took them out. Of course the second employee thought the first one was snatching books out of his bin. I’m telling you, cage fights have nothing on library used book sales.
  • For those of us who take our toddlers to the library, it is a great opportunity for an aerobic workout. My toddler made a run for it one day. Somehow, he got to one end of the bookshelves while I was on the other. So as soon as I tried to run down the aisle, he would run to the next aisle. I would run back to my side because it was closer, and move down to his aisle. Then we would start all over again. Sure the patrons were probably a little annoyed with his high pitched screams of pure joy and me yelling, “You want some pow pows,” but I got a workout and we created a wonderful memory.
  • At my library, you can check out as many books as you want. My daughter loves to go to the library, pick out about 10 books, check them out at the self-checkout and then take the books home and not read them. They sit on her desk or the lamp table for about a month because she can renew them online. Then when she gets the library bug, we go back to the library and do it all over again. Don’t get me wrong, she loves to read and as you can see from her review, she reads long books, but she usually reads books we already own or the books she checks out from her school library; she even checks out books that we already own because reading library books is way more fun than reading books we own. However, the school library limits you to two books, you don’t get a key chain library card and there is no self-checkout machine that goes, “BEEP!”
  • When my parents were younger, they didn’t have a lot of money and could only afford one car. So every day, my mom and I would ride the bus to our local library, sit there and read books. That was our daily routine. Okay, so I don’t actually remember that- I was too young. But my mom did tell me about it, so that counts… a little bit.

This just scratches the surface of what I love about libraries. I could go on for pages. Maybe I’ll add more as I think of them. Please add yours in the comments.

Today, my husband and I celebrated our 12th anniversary, which consisted of going to Barnes and Noble and then having dinner at a really good German restaurant. My husband also embraces his inner nerd. I noticed the books at the actual physical store, those still exist by the way, are more expensive than online. When I asked one of the employees why, she said because of overhead. I’m not going to go into my opinion of that, but I am now really worried that physical book stores are on the endangered species list and will soon go the way of the dinosaur. I’m really quite worried about it. If that happens, libraries will be the only place left that I will be able to go peruse book shelves, sit down on an uncomfortable chair and read amidst rows and rows of bookshelves with actual books in them. It would be tragic.

So the point of my story is- please, PLEASE start using your library. If you have a bunch of actual books you no longer want, and don’t want to give them to me, please donate them to your local library. Please join your Friends of the Library. Please volunteer so the library can stay open longer hours. And if you are filthy stinking rich, with filthy stinking rich kids who don’t need your money, please give it to your local library when you die so they can expand and add a coffee shop with comfortable chairs. That would make me very happy indeed.

Written by Christina

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