Soapboxing: On public libraries

Soapboxing on Tynga's Reviews

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 Nancy Drewkill 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 Little Shop of Horrorsalso 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!

Soapboxing is our platform for talking about books and book-related topics that matter to us. Soapboxing posts may be rants, they may highlight awesome or terrifying trends, or they might tackle bookish issues on our minds…
The content will vary but the posts will (hopefully) never be boring!



28 comments on “Soapboxing: On public libraries

  1. I LOVE my local library. I get 90% of the books I read there and 100% of my audiobooks. I'm lucky that my library is part of a multi-county system – which means it has close to 100 libraries whose selections I have access to. I still buy books, but I would certainly not read as much if I didn't have the use of the library – and I would probably stick to well known authors or only books I heard were good if I couldn't borrow books.Tanya

  2. OMGosh!!! A topic so freaking close to my heart!! I recently started working at my local library as a "page" – I put the books away. I do it for the minimum wage and b/c I freakin' LOVE books. I love to hear what everyone is doing!! I totally understand the small library woes – that's great your library has grown up and has blurays and is building it's ebook collection!! It's really hard to get anybody in the library these days. I live an hour north of Detroit in a slow-growing area and our library sits across the street from the county courthouse. Our patrons are either older folks taking out large print books or people coming across the street to use the computers to get online. oh well…

  3. I love my library. Since my small town amalgamated with a larger city about 10 years ago, now our library branch is part of a larger community of libraries (which probably has over 12). So if my library doesn't have a book, I can request to have it sent to my local library, and it usually take only a couple of days if there's no waiting list. I can also visit any of the branches with only one library cards.It helps that my library has a great online system which you can request, renew and update by simply having your library card number (I know mine by heart) and a password.

  4. Living in Montreal – most of the public libraries don't even come close to stocking enough English books for my taste. So, while I do visit the local library often – its usually to get DVDs or CDs – I usually buy my books, especially if I want to actually read one that was published after the year 2010!!!!!

  5. I'm at my local (literally down the street) library every 2 or 3 weeks! In fact, I'm going to day, but only to return. I have a huge bag of donations I need to take in, but they won't be open yet when I drop by.Anyway, I love the library! The two regular librarians also know me on sight and have my pick-ups ready. The older librarian occasionally acts my opinion on a book I'm returning, or we briefly chat about a book we've both read. There's rarely anyone in there other than younger kids using the computers.I'm also a huge fan of the ebook library. It's grown a lot since they first got it in…2010? I have a never ending supply of books even when I can't make it to the actual building! They're also really good at ordering books that are requested!Angie @ Pinkindle Reads & Reviews

  6. Before I moved last week, I loved my local library. It had an extensive collection in person, and online. They are currently renovating and will be at least double in size when done, and I'm sad that I will not see the end product. But I look forward to getting to know my new local library.

  7. I work at my local public library and I love it there. We're among the best in my county and it kills me to see people who don't care about it at all. Budgets are increasingly getting cut just because people don't care! Blah *rant*

  8. I love my local library – it has a handful of branches and a great YA section. They are always getting in the newest releases and have a great audiobook selection.The library seems to be very popular in our city. I even did a whole Library Week feature on my blog last September and interviewed someone from my local library. 🙂 GREAT POST!

  9. I love this post! I AM a librarian – in an elementary school, actually – so this makes me so happy. I am (obviously) a HUGE library user; it saves me so much money! My library is also pretty good about purchasing books I request, too, which always makes me happy. I love being the first person to check out a new release! I think I'm pretty lucky in that our library system tends to get its tax increases passed without any trouble (knock on wood, of course). It just shows how much people appreciate them and are aware of their true worth.~Merin @ Read and Reviewed~

  10. My first books were ordered from Scholastic, it was The Babysitter' s Club collection, I was probably about 11, but I wasn't particularly a reader as a kid. When I was in middle school, I discovered my school's library and you couldn't get me away to save my life. I've always been romantic at heart, but the book that drew me in was a mystery thriller, The Ghost of Fossil Glen. I never went to my high school's library, nothing caught my attention like in middle school, so I stopped reading. I was going through a rough patch after I graduated and I would leave my house looking for anything that would help ease my problems for a while. That's when I discovered my local library, but it was being renovated and for a while I wouldn't go. When it was finally finished, I walked into a two story building with internet and books, books ,books! I was there at least twice a week. It helped me some during my rough days, and when I moved a few years ago, I was sad to discover my newest local library; It's small, with a low selection of books and a rude, not exactly friendly, staff… it's not inspiring to say the least. I haven't been there for a year, but it's mostly because I'm more a book buyer now that I can actually afford my addiction, plus I discovered ebooks and Kindle. Some books I'm a little iffy about so I've been thinking of just heading out to borrow them before I decide to buy. Maybe I'll even discover another library nearby with a more positive vibe :)~ Neyra

  11. I love my local library. I am there at least once a week. I even volunteer at it. My card is almost always maxed (25 items at a time). So many great features. I love to encourage others to go. Even those that say they don't have time to browse or find the book on the shelf, most libraries offer holds. Also, many libraries are getting in on linking up with other libraries to exchange books. So if my library district does not have a particular title, they can request from another library in the state if they might have it. There are also state-to-state loans but those might cost a few dollars. Most libraries have lots of free or cheap services too. I have lived in 3 states, 4 library districts and each had some great stuff. Some more than others but if one looks into things, they can find some great bookish treasures and easy benefits! LOVE MY LIBRARY!

  12. I've worked in libraries since I left school over 30 years ago and I still love going to work every day. It constantly amazes me how many new customers come in and are surprised that we carry anything other than physical books. Yes libraries are changing, but we have to if we're going to keep up with the times. As long as people continue to visit, they'll be around – even if a lot of it is in a virtual capacity. So glad you have rediscovered yours.

  13. I don't go as often as I'd like but I have a really nice, modern library not too far from my house. I use to go often to take my niece and nephews to story time, which they loved, but since they outgrew that I rarely go. I should have made that my New Years resolution!Paranormal Haven

  14. Thanks for commenting, Kristin! Sorry to hear that your library is suffering. I really do feel like it's one of those "kids these days" kind of situations sometimes, particularly in smaller communities…

  15. Haha, I'm almost there with the number memorized, thanks to my library's introduction of e-books! I think it's great that you have access to so many other collections. 🙂

  16. Three cheers for more English books in Montreal! I can only imagine how hard it is, based on how near impossible it is to find books in French here in St. John's!

  17. Glad to hear you have such a great relationship with your local library, Angie, and jealous you live so close! I can't walk to my library but, if I'm honest, I probably wouldn't do it even if I could, just because it would limit the number of books I could take home. 🙂

  18. Ha, I was thinking about you when I wrote this post, Lili! I'm really envious of you working there. I wish that I had volunteered/worked at my local library when I was in high school.

  19. 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Merin! I have a friend who is the librarian at an elementary school back home and it's fun to talk about what goes on in her library. Some of her students are super keen and volunteer with her, even the really young ones.

  20. I have been thinking about going back to school for Library Science but there aren't a lot of jobs in libraries right now where I live. I'm so happy to hear that you still love it!

  21. I still go to the library. Though I confess.. with the internet I don't actually spend time in my library. I put all my books/games/ and movies on hold at the library and then just go up there to pick them up. I used to spend time in the library reading the magazines in there but haven't done that in a long while. Angie

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