The Public Library

A much younger person once told me that the day of a public library had passed. He felt there was no need to check out books, sit in a stuffy place while people around him said shhhhh. Computers were a much better way to research any bits of information that a person might need.  Uh…hadn’t I ever heard of Amazon???  Sitting to read a magazine or explore a bookshelf seemed like a waste of time to him. The idea of handling a bunch of musty old books or any other such nonsense seemed incomprehensible. As much as I tried to plead my case for the need of libraries, he just didn’t get it.

Ahhh well…youth…????

With a broken computer at home I am at the library-using a public computer. Having a smartphone or tablet  I seldom need an actual computer these days-except to write a blog post, type or print a document maybe. It might be more fashionable to head on over to a Kinko’s or some other such place, spend a few dollars and act like I don’t really need to be there…but… why would I want to do that when I can do this for free with my

Library Card!!!

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Oh sure, if I want to print something here it will cost me 10 cents a page (although it was free for may years) and I can only use the computer for 2 hours per day…but

 Why not?

If you have read my blog previously you may  know that I have fond memories of libraries-about my father taking us to the library as children while my sister and I checked out stacks of books (for free-if you don’t count the overdue fines we inevitability incurred). Most recently I talked about how much I enjoy the online services offered. I am able to search for a book at online at home, place a request, and then wait until the book is located. A text message will alert me when I am able to pick it up and for how many days it will be held. I can then pop into the library to pick it up. I also receive a text message when the due date is approaching. I can log on to my library account and renew my book several times before I actually need to make another trip into the library. No more overdue fines and super convenient!

OK, you might say. That is all very nice. After all, you can just run to the local big name book or warehouse store to purchase a book. Of course there is Amazon. If you have Prime you can even receive it within hours or the next day. No worry about fines or library cards and all of that nonsense.

Good thought.

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Well….

Today I needed to use a computer. Since the computers at the library are in high demand, I am assuming many other people need computer access for some reason. As I nosily look around, I see people job searching. Some here are seniors, some people dressed nicely-others not so nice. Perhaps  owning a computer is not within their budget. A few students are here working on projects of some sort. For some families a computer might not be in the budget or if they have one the cost of internet is too high. In our area you can expect to pay $60 a month (at least) for home internet service. McDonalds  or Starbucks might not be convenient or available or whatever.

The library is getting busy as kids finish their school day. I see a few young people here-a couple of girls quietly giggling together while they have school work laid out on the tables before them There is a young couple studying. What a  nice way for teens to study together.

I picked up a flyer at the door.

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They are promoting upcoming library events like storytime for kids on Tuesdays  or a free craft corner in the evening. The library is celebrating Hispanic Heritage month and a date for a puppet show of Alice In Wonderland is approaching. There is a literacy program. There are opportunities for volunteers. The Friends of the Library have a small bookstore where donated books are sold for a fraction of the cost of a new book. Contact your local library to see if they are taking book donations. (Most of us have a few laying around gathering dust and taking up room) Movies and books on tape/CD are found here too!

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Who knows? The children’s reading area might stimulate a lifetime of learning!

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Maybe the library isn’t for you but this really is an opportunity for many…people of all ages!  It is diverse in its offerings and with a county or city library system if your location does not have what you are looking for they probably can get it! The reference librarian is available to direct and assist you in your search.

And its free!

I passed a young mother on my way in today. She had a young boy of about 6 years old in tow. Her arms were overloaded with a stack of children’s books.  They were laughing and talking as they walked away. I envisioned them laying all of those books on the living room floor to explore together. Or maybe she would read to him as he snuggled beside her in a cozy chair. They may have some set aside for bedtime stories. Bonding time. Books can take you places or stir the imagination!

We will go shopping for a new computer this week and I will probably not be back to use the computers anytime soon. Sure, I could pop over to the bookstore and buy a book but I feel my money is best spent elsewhere (we all have our priorities). Sure, I buy books on Amazon if I need to own an actual book. There is, however, something about the atmosphere of the library that makes me love being here. Few distractions, no cell phones, no dirty dishes calling to me!  Maybe it’s the memories it evokes. I don’t know for sure.

What I do know for sure, is that the library system we have here is a gift and I hope it is one we can embrace in a changing world. A library just might be one of the best kept secrets!

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23 thoughts on “The Public Library

  1. The days of the library certainly is nostalgic for me too, Nikki. I think the day of the library is going to be different for this generation. I just hope that they hang on. There is so much there.

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  2. Hopefully libraries are modernizing and reaching out to the tech-savvy world. I too, however, fear they are soon to be a thing of the past. I guess our nostalgic feelings for libraries are not shared by a younger generation.

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  3. Like you, I will always have a soft spot for the library. Just this week, I volunteered to read aloud to children at my local library, something that I enjoyed as a recipient when I was a kid in Brooklyn. The librarian looked at me like I had two heads, but has promised to take my offer under consideration. I wonder how many parents still read to their children. I’m afraid that public libraries may be heading the way of the dinosaurs.

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  4. I have very fond memories of walking to the library with my grandma. She lived three blocks from the library, so when I visited her, we made our weekly trip to the library and came home with an armload of books. She didn’t attend college. In fact, I’m not sure she graduated from high school, but she liked to read. And, as you said, the library is free.

    When I was researching my novel, Tiger Tail Soup, I spent a lot of time at the University of Washington libraries. It was a difficult topic to research since I only read a few words of Chinese and there weren’t that many books in English about the Japanese invasion of China during WWII, especially relating to what happened in Fujian Province. I found quite a bit at the UW, but I also ordered books from my local library. We think everything is available online, but it isn’t. I found very little on line that was useful for background for my novel.

    Now, I admit, I don’t go to the library as often as I used to do. I buy lots of digital books for my Kindle and some paper books from the local bookstore.

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  5. One of my BFF’S from childhood and (even now) became a librarian and got her masters in Library Science at UCLA. She had a marvelous career working her way up through the library system. I wonder if many go in this direction any more? I know I use my phone for soooooo many things!

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  6. I love the public library system of the US. And I very much miss them. I was an avid library card member/visitor. We made weekly trips, they were part of our “errand circuit” 😛 and even the small libraries still had something special to offer. They really are magic. I miss them fiercely. I’d love just purusing areas, looking for titles that I found online, and checking them out for FREE.

    And many people cue up to use the computers because they are looking for work. A lot of folks these days seem to have smart phones, but not necessarily desktop or laptop computers.

    I really should have been a librarian.

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  7. Libraries are still special and important… I agree with one of the comments above which highlights that they are beginning to modernise too… but either way, I believe libraries have a social and cultural role in little towns and communities which is still in force, despite any other virtual facility, so to speak…
    Great post.. all my best wishes. Aquileana 😀

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  8. Feel free to lend it around at will. Word of mouth and online reviews can always lead to sales further along the social connections. In any case, the important thing for me is that what and how I have written is well received ( by the majority – it won’t be to everyone’s taste).

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  9. Thanks, Gwen. Speaking of loan-I have your book on loan to another friend. So far everyone I have given it to has given it good reviews. ( the only downside is they aren’t buying it on their own. )That is exciting about about your library and most especially about your book copies and interest it has generated! ! Perhaps a library isn’t something many will use on a regular basis but it is so good to know it is there when we need it and for those who utilize it. I do think they play an important role in society too.

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  10. Only just caught up with this post. By a strange co-incidence I walked to my university library today to return two overdue books and pay the fine. It was a 45 minute walk, but I Sooooo need that exercise (part way on the return I caught the free bus – no point overdoing it). I can’t imagine Amazon selling “Divorce in 19th Century New South Wales”, and even if they did – is that the book I want to own forever? LOL. I borrowed that, and “Death in the Victorian Family” as research for another book, which may or not get written. But aside from research, libraries still play a vital role in society, and were my lifeline growing up poor and without a television. When my memoir was released last year, I was thrilled to see our local council had purchased three copies, and that they were continuously out on loan for several months straight. Your post jogged me to take a look, and even now one is out on loan. AND! I notice they have purchased the audio copy which has only just been released, and it is also out on loan! Yippee!!! I still get a token royalty, and most importantly, the story is available to all. Whenever I run out of reading material, the library is the first place I check my Goodreads “To Read” list against. Good on you for your inspirational post.

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  11. This is so true. I was listening to an audio book recently and the cast of characters was becoming very confusing. There was no flipping back a few pages to figure out who was who. I love that we have options but you are right, many people will never experience the joy of having an actual book in their hands for sheer pleasure.

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  12. A wonderful tribute to libraries the world over! They definitely have an important role in society and I think they are beginning to modernise. Not that I like all it I must admit! When my son was young a library visit at least once a week was a highlight to our day and I could just see us in the lady and her son you described. Chatting about books, choosing with great care and yes, then collapsing on the floor to read one as soon as we are home. Alas the number of books in the library has been dramatically reduced over the years, understandably so but still…however they are a lot cleaner and newer these days. Our local ones holds lots of events encouraging reading amongst all age groups and ensuring the survival of the library!

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  13. Libraries are starting to go high tech to keep up with the times. I think they are doing a wonderful job. My friend with a 2 year old takes her little one to story time at the book store and the library. So he’s exposed to both. Good mama. 🙂

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  14. And even if we’re not in a position to need to use the library or even want to, I just think it’s so important that it is available. I don’t know…. most parents just buy their kids books now instead of taking them to the library… I think?? With busy working parents these days it’s not a criticism. I know their plates are full.

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  15. I should have taken a photo on Wed when I drove by ours. They are in the midst of a huge remodeling. It’s almost impossible to get to now. Getting my library card is the first thing I do when I move to a new neighborhood. I rarely check out books anymore, but I love to got there to peruse the books and magazine. Sometimes just to sit and write. I love our library. Great article on it. Sad that so many can’t see the value. Yes, I have prime but some books just need to be borrowed, not owned. Good to see you again.

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  16. I have such a large library here at home at still adding, that I must confess, I haven’t been to my local library in a few months. I am due soon though, I actually miss it – there’s always another book to read!!

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  17. To be honest, Pauline, it is only with my renewed interest in reading that I started using the library again. I think that I feel so passionate about it is because there is still a need. Maybe some of us mature folks, working folks, or comfortably living type folks will have a need for the library and so great for those who don’t have other options or who just want to take advantage of the services like I am doing with my reading right now. The last thing I need to do is accumulate more books around here! The other reason this works for me a little better is I feel push to get my books read in a timely manner instead of letting them languish on the nightstand like I used to haha.

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  18. What a wonderful paean of praise to the local library Jan. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your thoughts. I admit to no longer making use of the library these days – but once I was a regular visitor there. Nowadays the ever changing pile of books beside the bed keeps me occupied thanks to a daughter in the business. The thought that struck me while reading your post was that if I want to know something relatively superficial I can google [I often wonder at what point that noun became a verb!] it and get an adequate answer from Wikipedia or some other source ….. but if I want to learn something I hunt out a book and buy it. Having the internet as an endless supplier of mostly superficial information, concerns me if that is the only source that is used. Perhaps the young person you spoke to may one day need a book to deepen his interest in a subject and visit the local library………… Opinions change and miracles do happen 🙂

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