National Library Week is April 9 through April 15.
I love libraries.
I started hanging out in libraries when I was a kid. I knew my way around the Card Catalog and had the Dewey Decimal system memorized by age 11.
If you are not familiar with your library, I urge you to visit especially during National Library Week. I promise that you won’t be shhhhh’d by a severe-looking matron who’s got her hair up in a bun and is wearing horn-rimmed glasses. Libraries have morphed into fun and welcoming hangouts. They have become places that encourage not only speaking to others, but laughing with them as well.
When we moved to Eugene two years ago, the first thing I did was go to my local library to get my new Eugene library card. I did this before attempting to go to the DMV for my new driver’s license.
Turns out that getting that revered library card was dependent on having that driver’s license. Off I go to the DMV. Being without a library card and a library for just a few weeks was easily one of the more stressful parts of the move for me. My library card provides me almost unlimited access to books, movies and music. I felt that I did not need a driver’s license to actually drive a car, but I did need a library card to get a book.
Yes, I could have just ordered up digital books if I wanted to. I find, however, that reading a book on a digital device just leaves me cold. My first choice is to read a real book. It seems that the touch and feel of a book is important to my eyeballs. I totally get that reading digitally can be more efficient, more robust and friendlier to the environment. But I spend way too much time in front of a screen already, so reading a book-book gives me a break from that. Also, reading a physical book curbs my urge to multi-task while reading.
Reading books changed my life. At one particularly dark time in my life, when I had screwed up just about every pathway I had ventured on to, I remember spending a lot of alone time at my home “library”. I had recently moved and I had no furniture except my king-sized waterbed (ugh why did I ever buy that?). My waterbed soon became my home library. The headboard of this bed was a bookcase. It was my first bookcase. The library books kept company with my other books and magazines that were strewn all over the bed. This piling of books left very little room for me and my little dog. This was happiness. This was bliss.
During this very dark time I started to read about gardening and owning land. I dreamed about “5 Acres and Independence”. I fantasized about living off the grid. I wanted chickens. Organic Gardening Magazine spoke a language to me I had never heard before. Words like vermiculture, compost and seed-saving danced in my head.
Even though I had no land, and no space for growing a garden, those books instilled in me the urge to grow things. So I did. Since I didn’t have any furniture in my new place (I wasn’t making that up), I put up some garage shelving with fluorescent lights in what should have been the dining room and grew 250 tomato plants from seed. I printed up a gardening newsletter, and passed one out to all of my friends at work. I sold every one of those little tomato starts. I would have given them all away as selling wasn’t even the point of what I was doing. I had found an activity that I loved. Thank you, thank you library!
A year later I was living out in the country on 2 acres. Not exactly off the grid, but it was perfect for me and the pooch. I ended up spending 15 years out there. Far from the city, I was happily herding chickens, guinea hens, turkeys and a couple of horses. And of course, I was growing a garden. Life was good. Because of the library.
I tell my friends I often have the experience of books “jumping into my arms” when I’m at the library. This may be a stretch, but many times my eyes are drawn to a certain bookcase where a book grabs my attention for whatever reason. This happened with Natalie Goldberg’s book, “The True Secret of Writing”. A couple of weeks before our move to Eugene, her book leapt into my arms. I enjoyed reading it so much I bought it. I read and re-read this one book during our drive here. I continued re-reading it well after our landing in Eugene. Because of this book, I am now writing. For better or worse.
I encourage you to explore your local library. Do you know that you can create an account, search or browse for books, music and movies online, put your requests on hold and then be notified by text or email when they are ready to be picked up?
You will discover that libraries aren’t just about books. Below is a small list of some of the things you can do or borrow from your library in addition to books:
Use of computers and printers
Use of digitizing equipment to digitize photographs or movies
Many libraries offer classes, book clubs and author presentations
At my old library in Colorado you can borrow backpacks that come with a pass to a Colorado State Park.
Non-traditional items such as sewing machines, looms and spinning wheels.
Most libraries offer story time and music time for the kids.
Free access to Lynda with just your library card. Lynda has over 5000 courses in Business, Technology and Creative Skills taught by industry experts. Link to Lynda.
I rarely buy a book anymore. My first “go-to” is the library. Honestly, there is no way that I can afford to buy the amount of books I read. And I don’t own enough bookcases to house all those books! So I’m happy to let the library do that. That’s what they do best.
If you haven’t been to a library lately, check one out!
Happy Library Week!