My name is Laura. I have a chronic library habit.
Sure, I have other, less socially acceptable habits. We can talk about those another day. Right now I’m trying to convince you to become a fellow library fanatic.
I’ve already been successful with my kids. The stacks of books my family brings home may be pushing up the state average. Now that my kids are older they are surprised most of their peers don’t bother with libraries, in person or online. And I’m surprised to see how many of my friends don’t use libraries either. Some haven’t been since high school. For those of you who don’t bliss out over libraries, or worse, dismiss libraries as dim places with a distinctive old book smell, here are the ten best reasons to get hooked on libraries.
1. Magic water.
As a small child, I was convinced there was something magical about the water coming out of our local library’s drinking fountain. It tasted better than any water, anywhere else. I assumed this had to do with its enviable proximity to all those books.
When I had my own children, I intentionally carried on the magic water belief. And they’ve always been able to taste the difference. Although I realize there’s no factual basis for this, library water still seems more deeply refreshing than ordinary water. See for yourself!
A much more vital magic is evident in libraries around the world.
It has to do with a sense of history, of freely shared knowledge, and awe-inspiring architecture. When traveling I make sure to hang out in libraries. Most recently I found time to soak up the atmosphere of one of NYC’s awesome libraries.
Surely you celebrate the annual Hug Your Librarian Day. These folks are amazing. As Erica Firment writes on Librarian Avengers,
People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to disciplines. Librarians are all-knowing and all-seeing. They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the masses. They preserve every aspect of human knowledge. Librarians rule. And they will kick the crap out of anyone who says otherwise.
Librarian stereotypes aren’t relevant or cute. Don’t believe me? Check out Library Shenanigans, Librarian Problems, and Your Librarian Hates You.
4. Library materials are free!
Our taxes pay for them whether you use them or not. Only suckers don’t get in there to scoop up books, magazines, movies, digital downloads, recorded books, electronic readers, programs, classes, performances, and more. My kids and I have strolled out after a library visit with well over 100 items checked out on a card or two.
Today’s libraries offer much more than well-worn books and a chaotic Story Hour. Click over to your library’s website. You’ll find an amazing array of offerings well beyond the newest bestsellers. There are probably programs to get you started in fencing or felting or fraternizing with fellow foodies, just this week alone.
OMG, I love ordering materials. In my area library systems are linked, so holdings can be sent from libraries in quite a few counties right to my own little branch. I can read a review of a book before it’s released, then go to the library site to pre-order it. I can order special book group offerings for our book group (up to 20 of the same book) that come organized by some saintly librarian with supplemental materials. I order obscure specialty books that were published back in the 1920’s and earlier.
We’ve homeschooled on the cheap thanks to our library system and the wonders of ordering materials. No way could I afford to expose my kids to the depth of information and range of experiences they’ve gained via libraries.
6. Online renewal.
I don’t know about your library system, but mine permits renewals up to five times. Online. That gives me several months to adore most materials. Those months are necessary. I use books in my work, take them with me to ward off dull moments, and leave them around the house for family members to pick up when their eyeballs are unoccupied.
Sometimes I find books so precious that when they are finally and irrevocably due, I end up buying a copy. But let me point out, I only buy books after proving their worth to myself. No regrettable book purchases here. Yay savings.
7. Library privileges.
I’ve been in a steady human relationship for a loooong time, but I’m a non-monogamous library user. Judging by the number of library cards in my name, I’m a pushover for the sweet allure of any library’s New Acquisitions section.
It’s hard to unearn library privileges. Late fees are usually minimal and in many systems there are no late fees for seniors, teachers, and homeschoolers. Even when my account is labeled “delinquent” due to a late book or two I’m still able to check out and reserve materials. I don’t mind a few dollars here and there to make up for my late return crimes. Totally worth it. Unlike most human relationships, my library is always buying me something new, forgiving me when I atone, and consistently planning unexpected ways to lure me.
8. Research databases.
Library systems subscribe to pricey online database services that none of us could afford on our own. I access most of them from my home computer, simply logging in with my library card number. These databases include genealogy, academic research, news archives, digital images, health, and much more. I relied almost entirely on the resources of my award-winning Medina County Library for the research necessary to write my book.
9. Book Zombie Fuel
A wealth of materials is essential for those of us who are Book Zombies. We absolutely must gorge on fresh
brains books, feeding an insatiable hunger for that oblivious-to-the-world swoon we call reading. We don’t hear or see what’s happening in our “real” lives when lost in a book.
Libraries feed that hunger, gladly buying books for us and storing them until we’re ready for more.
10. That smell.
Libraries don’t smell like someone’s musty basement. The odor is something entirely different. I’ll tell you what it reminds me of, right after I tell you about how much I appreciate Russian language library materials.
For five summers we hosted a little girl from Belarus through the Children of Chernobyl project. And every summer before she arrived I called the librarian in charge of the foreign language collection at the Cleveland Public Library. We talked over Tatiana’s age and interests, then every few weeks through her three month stay this librarian sent to our rural library branch a wonderful selection of Russian materials including Harry Potter books, children’s magazines, recorded children’s books, popular music, and much more. When my kids curled up with books or went to bed listening to CD’s, Tanya was able to do so as well. I hoped it eased the hunger she must have felt to hear her own language. Beyond that, it built connections between us almost immediately.
The first day she arrived, exhausted from long flights and weak from some medical problems, there was no way we could really communicate. It became obvious that our efforts to learn Russian had been laughable and as a seven-year-old her grasp of English was limited to “yes” and “thank you.” Then I remembered those blessed library materials. In a few minutes all of us were dancing to the Russian version of “Hokey Pokey” and laughing before collapsing in a heap on the couch together to giggle as we paged through a Russian/English picture book, challenging each other to pronounce the words. That stack of Russian library materials smelled, more than anything, like home. To me, every library smells like my place. Bet they smell like your place too.
19 thoughts on “10 Reasons To Become A Library Addict”
Books are not just the best friends but they are the only true friends, eternal and perpetual. 🙂
SO cool! I am so going to drink from the water fountain at my library! ( I work there see, I am one of those non stereotype librarians too!)
This whole column/essay is most interesting. I too have loved libraries since I could read, and nothing readable was off limits to me. I went to a country school for 8 years, and our saintly teacher always brought us books from the town library, and she always got me horse stories to read. My 10 grandchildren are all readers too. Nothing takes a library’s place.
There’s nothing like parents who read avidly and an upbringing without TV in the formative years to teach you this addiction. I have trouble with people who say they “have no time to read”. Excuse me? Almost everything else makes way for reading in my life, and that includes my other addictions, quilting and gardening. You’re right, libraries are the means by which we decide what books will become part of the family, and which were just visitors passing through.
I love reading, thanks to being brought up by a step-mother who loved to read!
I really enjoyed your article. Especially since my time as a child was divided between the library and the Y. Now as an old lady I read while on the tread mill or the stationary bike
I love the library for those reasons and also I take books to shut ins that make them so happy. I will not read because of my eyes, frustrating, but I am never without a talking book.
I want to be you when I grow up.
Naw, I’m awkward and tend to snort when I laugh.
Magic water; we love it! What a fun list. Thanks for sharing.
Reading has helped me overcome some of my disabilities. I’m above my reading level now and I just can’t stop. Reading takes me to another place, I love it.
After my book fair, I’m writing an order to have a drinking fountain installed in my school library. I like cold water.
I find my greatest joy in reading, I love opening a book and entering the portal to a different life, a different culture, a different way of being. When I have myself sorted out I would love to establish an adult literacy programme in conjunction with our local library, I just want to share my absolute joy with everyone I can and being unable to read must deprive one of so much potential for joy. I don’t see libraries as mere book repositories, they are the portal to a magical kingdom of knowledge and fantasy, history and future and the librarians are your travel agents to the universe within these majestic portals.
life bubbles Help! I am forever buried in books, Water and Light and new life blooms. seeds of thought are nurtured into newness and fruitful joy, soothing sorrows and welcoming ….- Pastor Jim Shotwell
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Love this and completely relate! #1 is so funny…didn’t realize it until I read this but my daughter always wants a drink from the library water fountain on our way out…always!
Kids know magic water when they taste it!
I’m new to Laura Grace’s website and am having a great time catching up with articles like this one. I completely agree. What’s not to love about libraries? I, too, habitually order books through the local library’s consortium, which means that I can usually find any book I want. I am especially glad to see that others take advantage of the “free” use of books and then decide if they need own them. To me , that makes much better sense than buying books you don’t really get to know until you’ve read them. That makes my personal library truly comprised of treasures. Audio books have long been favorites and now I’ve learned how to check them out electronically. So cool!
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We are so lucky aren’t we?