I think that I shall never see a building as lovely as a library.
If you’d asked me as recently as last spring what my favorite type of establishment was to visit, I’d have answered book store, quicker than a jackrabbit on speed. Now, whether it’s the economy, my own growing maturity knowing I don’t have to own every book I read, or the dangerously overloaded bookshelves and storage space in my home,the answer has changed.
Don’t get me wrong, walking into a bookstore still brings me that intense high, that sense that anything is possible and life is perfect if only I had ten or so uninterrupted hours to browse the offerings and walk out with a stack of books higher than I am tall. But I have come to appreciate the more mellow high when I drive down the street and pull into the lot of my town library.
First of all, when I walk in and approach the circulation desk to tell them I have a book in from interlibrary loan (god bless that creation which links 19 town libraries in the state to offer up all their circulation to interested borrowers) the lovely librarians don’t even have to ask my name. They know me. I am a frequent flyer and only wish I could accumulate miles for the number of books I request.
And what other place offers so much to both adults and children. I’ve brought my kids to story hours galore. The children’s library is always involving the kids in decorating their themed bulletin boards, holding reading incentive programs with prizes, having the kids bring in their favorite collections to display in glass cases, inviting in special story tellers, holding holiday themed events, bringing in traveling animal programs, offering intergenerational events, hosting parent-child social hours, sponsoring kids’ book clubs, hosting community clubs like kids’ chess club. The list goes on and on. At the children’s library my kids can play with stuffed animals, browse and check out books, CD’s, DVD’s, video cassettes, audio cassettes, specially themed activity packs, computer games. They can play on the computer, color, do puzzles. It’s a cool place to be when summer heat leaves me sweltering in my unconditioned house. It’s a warm place to be on a rainy or snowy afternoon when we’re stir crazy cooped up at home and need to get out. There’s no cost involved and no pressure to get your items and get out.
Grown-ups have free internet access, can find quiet time out of the house away from little ones (or other big ones for that matter), participate in town wide book clubs, listen to special guest authors come and speak, access public space for a wide range of community groups, find out about a host of community programs and happenings through bulletin board posts, attend the yearly book fair, and of course borrow books, CD’s, DVD’s, etc… for endless hours of entertainment. I’m leaving out way more, but you get the picture. And it’s all free. What else is free nowadays?
I love bookstores. I will continue to patronize book stores. They support authors and that’s something I’m all for. But the bottom line is that a bookstore, even a lovely, rare independent, must make a profit. A library exists simply to enrich and give to its community. Many community institutions exist to help specific target populations with their struggles, or to protect or regulate or manage town residents and town life. But the library is for everyone and is about all that is positive in a community: public gathering space, education, intergenerational interaction, entertainment, giving, inspiration, communication, fun.
So now I get tickled each time I walk into my town library. Okay, sometimes I’m dragging because it’s been a long day with the little tykes and nothing is going to be fun at that point. However, walking in those doors brings me a feeling of connection to my town that I don’t get many places. And I am deeply appreciative that I can count on them to feed my book habit no questions asked. They’re the perfect junkie supplier.
I think that I shall never see a building as lovely as a library. Donate to your public library.