This week, I worked my very last scheduled shift at my public library so that I could move on to my full-time job doing something else.
I thought it was important to take the time to explain why I love the library so much, and why I chose to work there in the first place. Working at a library didn’t usually feel like strenuous, obnoxious work, and the truth was, I loved working there. Being around books and people who love to read is a blessing, and as a lover of literature, I felt that I fit right in. I loved recommending books to people and in turn, learning what books I should read next. I would see the same people every week, and I looked forward to hearing how they were. I also saw new people signing up for the library all the time, and it reinstated my faith that libraries will live on.
Before I worked at one, I used the library quite a lot. So many people love books, but they also feel a compulsive need to own every book that they read. I’m suggesting (if that is the case for you) to sever your ties with idea that ownership and learning are the same thing. You can read a book, experience it, learn from its story, and still give it back for someone else to read. Yes, there are some books (well, many) that I loved so much, I bought a copy for myself because I wanted to return to it whenever I liked. But for casual reading, especially for those who read a lot, you will save so much money by using your local library, and you will probably find more things to read that you never thought you’d enjoy before!
Here’s the thing: books are magic. They are! And the fact that you can sign up (for free!) at a place that is a sanctuary for so many people, and take loads of books to the counter and check them out and take home all those stories of magic with you, that is too good to pass up. I’ve heard the usual arguments against libraries.
It takes too much time!
We are a culture obsessed with immediacy. Things have gotten faster and simpler for us, so we get a little bit greedy. But trust me when I say this, I take some mornings that I have off and turn it into “me” time when I go to the library. I get a coffee beforehand, I let myself browse the shelves and get a few cookbooks, and I even walk around the city afterwards and poke around in the antique stores. It can be a practice of mindfulness and quiet happiness. And for those who say they truly don’t have time to go, that’s okay! I’ve seen plenty of people rush into the library, pluck something from the “new” shelf, check out at the counter, and get out of there in five minutes. It’s really about getting there. Just get there. Just try it.
Borrowing/sharing books is gross! They are dirty!
Here’s the thing, they really aren’t dirty. I can say from experience that when people return a book that is messy/torn/ruined, we fix it immediately, or we take it out of circulation. Sometimes, we miss those books by mistake, and a patron will bring it to our attention. And then we fix it immediately, or we take it out of circulation. Most books we get are super new and in beautiful condition. Plus, if you love tiny bookstores and used book shops, you are buying used books anyway. It’s worth a look.
I’m afraid I won’t bring my books back on time!
Let me tell you a story. Even I, someone who worked at a library, was late bringing things back. One time in particular, I had forgotten about the books I was supposed to return, and so many days had passed, I was scared to bring them back. When I placed them on the desk and the librarian checked them in, I shyly handed my card over so she could see the damage on my account. “70 cents!” She said. 70 cents. I happily paid her a dollar and let them keep the change. I know libraries vary on their borrowing and fining rules, but most of the time, books are not going to break the bank. In fact, at my library, a book fine couldn’t even reach over $3 itself for being overdue, it stopped at $3. Movies and museum passes are another story, but we’re talking about books here. Don’t be scared. Just find some books, bring them back when you can, and enjoy what the library can offer you in reading entertainment.
I’d like to know other people’s opinions on libraries and if they use them. I’ve been lucky enough to borrow from incredibly huge city libraries, as well as tiny small-town libraries, and I love them all. Because of budget cuts, libraries and museums are suffering greatly, so I mean it when I say that giving it an honest try could mean contributing to a better society with well-rounded funding for community centers that encourage learning.
I think this sums it up:
“Libraries are innately subversive institutions
born of the radical notion that every single member
of society deserves free, high quality access
to knowledge and culture.”
-Dr. Matt Finch
And of course, my favorite:
“All the secrets of the world are contained in books.
Read at your own risk.”