Just like last month, I’ve thrown my intended topic out the window in favour of something that’s just come to my mind: rhaposodizing about public libraries. I stopped by my local library the other day and was sad to see very few patrons, which got me thinking:
Do people still visit public libraries? Are libraries relevant in this increasingly digital age?
When I was a kid, I was an unabashed bookworm who practically lived at the public library. I’m lucky enough to have a mom who is also a big reader and we spent many an evening or weekend afternoon scanning the shelves at different branches. My mom is a romance and mystery reader so I got into those genres early but there were so many amazing options that I quickly started branching out. I remained, at heart, a mystery lover, though, and my bedroom was filled with Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys (I particularly loved those super mysteries where they would come together and the romantic tension between Frank and Nancy would kill me every time — though they would never get together because Nancy was with Ned), Encyclopedia Brown, The Three Investigators, The Famous Five, The Babysitter’s Club, and The Bobbsey Twins on a regular basis. Librarians knew me because i was such a regular customer. My elementary school was also blessed with a large budget so I had a neverending To Be Read pile and I can’t imagine growing up any other way. Some of my best childhood memories involve the library or books, and I never would have been able to read as much as I did if it wasn’t for my local library. I still remember weeping my way through GONE WITH THE WIND in sixth grade (super nerd alert!), crushing on Frank Hardy, wishing I were more like Blyton’s George, relating to Claudia’s multicultural family in TBC, and wondering why I could never figure things out like all of the teen investigators in my books. My brother used to play hockey in a community centre with a library and I used to run down there as soon as we arrived so that I could try to read a whole book before the game was over.
I remained a die-hard patron of the library until I went away to university. I stopped going to public libraries once I started my undergrad, except for when I was home for holidays and would go with my mom. Part of it was being overseas for my first year and wanting to experience the world, not read about it, but even after I returned to Canada, I was a book buyer, not a book borrower. Once I moved to Newfoundland, I tried to get back into the spirit but I found myself a little depressed about the state of affairs in the libraries in St. John’s. They weren’t nearly as good as the libraries in my hometown and I couldn’t find the books I was looking for — all the urban fantasy and paranormal romance that I was introduced to by my friend, Amy. Thankfully, she had an amazing collection and let me borrow at will so I was still able to dive into the genre that I obviously still love.
I’m proud to report that I have rediscovered my local library in the past couple years. We’ve had a sporadic relationship since I moved to Newfoundland in 2003 but the selection has really improved in the past few years, and my reading tastes have also changed as I’ve gotten older. I’m diving back into historical romance, a subgenre I adored in high school, and the library also has a fantastic collection of DVDs and Blu-Ray, which is great for me since we don’t have cable and I don’t want to download illegally. (I just got Little Shop of Horrors, which I’ve wanted to see for quite a while!) I also just discovered that my local library will try to order books for me if I request them, which is just about the coolest thing ever. I went in the other day hoping to find HEART OF OBSIDIAN because I have all the other books in paperback but I need to know what’s going on (and I haven’t read any reviews to avoid spoilers) so if you see a review from me about that book anytime soon you’ll know my library came through for me. Or I caved.
It also helps that the local library has recently gotten into ebooks. I love it because it means I have the convenience of a digital download and I don’t have to remember to go back to the library since the book automatically disappears once the due date arrives. The only downside is that there’s a cap of five books, which isn’t a lot for a girl who routinely took out about ten books per visit as a kid, but it’s a small sacrifice to have all sorts of amazing titles available from home. I’m diving back into all sorts of series that I read when I was younger and it’s been a lot of fun. Plus, the online section has a lot of titles that they don’t carry as physical books so the selection is the best it’s ever been.
Plus, libraries track what books get borrowed, which can help your favourite authors. Buying a book is one way to show your love for an author but you can also take their work out from the library and have it count, too. I’m not certain about the weighting of puchases versus library use but publishers need to know that their authors are in demand and that they should keep publishing them. Having a small book-buying budget doesn’t mean you can’t support an author — it just means you need to find another outlet and I would urge you to choose your local public library. It has the added benefit of supporting an important part of the community since libraries are often the only place that some people can get reading material or have access to the Internet for free. And you’ll probably be surprised by just how awesome your local library can be. It’s a great way to discover new titles and authors, or even get involved in a book club!
So, what’s your stance on public libraries? Do you go? Please share in the comments!
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