Loving the Library

The New York Public Library, May 2009

Last year, when my eldest turned 21, we took a trip to the Big Apple.  Just her and I on a three day, whirlwind tour of NY.  One of our detours was to the Public Library.  The place was jaw droppingly beautiful, in majesty, architecture, and steeped in history.  At the time I thought if my library looked like this, I’d go more often.

Right now, I’m starting a new love affair with my local library.  Honestly, I feel like a real loser for just entering into this relationship at 46.  Like every new love affair, I’ll tell anybody who will listen how great the library is. Most people look at me with a “yeah, duh!” look on their faces.

When I was really little, my Mom and I lived in a big enough city to have a great library.  My Mom was a single parent, and worked three or four different part-time jobs to support us. There was no long arm of the law to enforce child-support in those days, so there was nobody supporting the two of us but Mom. We didn’t have a car. The library was on the other side of town.  I remember visiting a few times for special events, but I never signed out a book, because getting back to return it would have been too great of a risk factor.

I recall taking some picture books out of the school library, but not too many. I think Barbie was more interesting to me at the time.

In my teen years my Mom remarried and we moved to the smallest town in the universe. No library. I do recall a small school library where I signed out a book or two, including Johnathan Livingston Seagull. It apparently left a big impression on me, since I still remember reading it.

At University, the books I took out of the library were utilitarian. Needed in the research and writing of essays and to help enhance my higher learning. Never once did I sign out a book for pure pleasure. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if a section like that ever existed in the University library.  If it did, I never walked past it.

Now that the planets have aligned in such a way that I have more opportunity and desire for pleasure reading, it seems I can’t get enough of it. I’m like a starving reader at the altar of an all-you-can-read buffet. The thrift stores have offered up a number of treasures for a buck or less, but with my commitment to personal finance, books with a price-tag of $1.99 or more seem out of my price range.  Still, I’ve scooped up a number of books that I’d like to read for dirt cheap.

Recent releases, however, can’t be found for even the steep price of $1.99 at the thrift store or at yard sales. I’ve returned to my local library.  Now I’m in a whole new stratosphere.  The Toronto Public Library system boasts almost 100 branches.  All I have to do is sign in online and order any book from any branch and they’ll bring it to my local branch for me to pick up.  It’s absolutely brilliant.  I just returned a library book this morning.  It took 4 months from the time I ordered it until it was my turn to read it. That’s absolutely fine.  I had a few books to read at home in the meantime.

Another book I ordered has also come in. I feel so plugged in to my community by having a library card and using it. I’m reading recent releases for free.  Better yet, I don’t have to find any space on the bookshelf to stash them away. I get to take them back to the library to pay it forward so somebody else can have the same pleasure I did. All this pleasure for no cost. Sure, I pay taxes to the City for the pleasure of all the municipal services I get.  I pay whether I take advantage of them or not.

For now, I’m overjoyed with my new love affair. I’m thinking of ways to enhance our relationship. Maybe I’ll drop in and occupy a chair and read a newspaper or magazine? Maybe I’ll sign out a movie or a CD to listen to. Maybe I’ll pick a stub off a flyer on a wall and join a local book club.  I don’t know how this relationship will turn out, but I’m excited to know that the library will be hard-pressed to disappoint me, and can offer me up new adventures for as long as I care to take advantage of it.

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