Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ode to the Library

I know I’ve said this before but I am in love with my local library. I remember growing up and loving the library. I loved it when my mom took us. I loved my elementary school library. I loved being able to ride my bike by myself to the library. When I was in high school I practically camped out at the library. Librarians loved me and would recommend books for me to read. When I got to college my work study had me working at the campus library and thus ended my fascination and love affair with the library. When you have to use the Dewey Decimal System to shelve books and sort card catalog files, the library loses its magic and luster. This led to a separation between me and the library of well over a decade. I did, however, find solace in the arms of Barne’s and Noble, Borders Books, and various and sundry booksellers.

When I recently returned to school, I began patronizing my local library again. First, I needed to use their databases. Then I found the library a quiet and non-distracting place to study. Finally, because I was once again a student on a student’s budget but this time with a husband, I remembered what libraries are for! Books! Glorious books! Then, I found books on tape for long commutes and car rides. Finally, I got an iPod for Christmas and I have found the musical nirvana that is inter-library loan.

Do other countries have libraries? Can you imagine explaining how it works to someone not familiar with the library system? It seems magical and too good to be true. You can check out as many books, tapes, CDs, and movies as you want for FREE. All you’re required to do is bring them back in the time allotted and care for them while they are under your care.

I don’t think I will actually buy another book as long as I live. I read them too fast. Seriously, I will buy a hardcover book and read it in a day. I rarely, if ever, reread a book so then it sits on my shelf for years never getting cracked open again. UNLESS I happen to take it to half price books or some book drive. Why spend upwards of $20 on brand new books when I can get them from my local library for free?

I know brand new titles are not easy to get at the library but I have figured out how to work that too. Our county library has a website. They list all upcoming books (or you can go to Amazon or other book sites to see what’s coming out and when.) and have a feature where you can request the book. Granted there are usually hundreds of requestors ahead of me but if I keep checking out other books and reading those, as time goes by I forget I even requested the new book until I get an email from the library that says the book I requested is in and waiting for me. I love this system. I can peruse the library by internet, find the book, movie, tape, or CD I want, click “request”, and then it goes into a queue. Once it becomes available, I get an email saying I need to come pick it up and check it out. I go to the library and head directly for the “hold” shelves. There under my number is the very thing I’ve been waiting for. I pick it up and check it out.

My library allows me to view my account on their website. I can see what’s out under my name, what I’ve requested that has yet to come in, what is due and when it’s due, and if I have any fines or messages. It is a great system. I feel like it puts the world at my fingertips. I can get book suggestions based on things I’ve checked out or I can look and see what might be interesting to me based on topic, author, title, or key word. Based on the number of requests ahead of me, I can surmise that I am not the only one enjoying this system. I wonder if these other requestors are also iPod owners since much of what is in my queue right now are CDs. I find it hard to believe that as requestor number 27 of 27 total requests for the Best of Howard Jones, the 26 people ahead of me are just Jones-heads needing a fix. Do the libraries know they are providing us with iPod fodder? How can they not? Especially when I check out a CD one night only to return it the next.

Oh Hennepin County Library System, thank you for rekindling my love for the library. Thank you for taking my love and making it more than I could ever imagine it could be. You are my density.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

I understand your love for libraries! I moved around a lot as a child and can recall every library at each place.
My library here rocks....they just added a feature where you can download E-books for FREE! You should check and see if your library does the same