A return to the library that was long overdue

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in a long time: registered for a library card.

I know, I’m terrible! How could I have loved books all these years and not frequented libraries?

I confess, I’ve always liked the atmosphere of a bookstore more, a place where you can sit down with a pristine copy of a new release and order an overpriced coffee in a building that seems to be entirely constructed of books. Exaggerations aside, they look nice (check out these beautiful bookstores), smell good, and have an overwhelming selection.

Maybe it differs where you live, but libraries near me are small and kind of dinky. And at college no one hung out at libraries for fun (that’s some sort of unwritten rule). Now I’m all for the idea behind libraries (why can’t we have free and considerate borrowing services for everything else?), and I think being a librarian is one of the best professions out there, but I’ve always associated libraries with hush-hush quiet, those ugly plastic book jackets, unavailability, waiting lists, etc. And I’m facing those problems at my local library now.

But I owned a library card long ago (seriously, it’s been floating around my Mom’s wallet since I was a kid), and I think it’s about time I had one again. At least the years were kind (I didn’t amass any forgotten late fees).

I met a wonderful elderly lady who helped me sign out my card, check out a book, and reserve a couple more. She was delightful to talk with and is my favorite person there already, and seeing a friendly face goes a long way in welcoming me and other patrons.

They now offer e-books, which makes acquiring hot titles a lot easier, and the nice librarian also told me that they also host programs now and then, a feature that makes the library experience sound active and involved as opposed to quiet and snooty.

And oh—it was busy. That’s a word people hardly associate with libraries: “busy.” It was great and very expectation-breaking.

I still prefer shopping at a bookstore, mainly because of the inventory, but I’m happy to support something that’s much more engaged in literacy than bookstores are. When it comes down to it, bookstores want your business. Yes, they can have attractive atmospheres and decor, loyalty discounts and exciting events, but they don’t have the positive energy and encouragement that libraries do: Libraries just want to share the love of reading with you, your children, your friends and family. Stopping by there was a much more personable and interactive experience than visiting a bookstore normally is.

That’s more than enough to bring me back again.

Are you a library person? What’s your favorite thing about them?