Thursday, April 4, 2013

Your Lovable Local Library

These are only two - of my eleven bookshelves.
I've crammed in a couple dozen more since I shot this.
And then I have my stacks o' books...
Book geek here - always have been, always will be. I love the sensuous smell and feel of books, in whatever format: the sharp-cornered dangerousness of a hardback, the soft yielding promise of a paperback, the infinite variety and stimulation of an e-reader, even the seductive mellowness of an audiobook narrator.

*fans self*

And because I have come to know so many wonderful authors, of course I want to support every single one of them by buying their books. Repeatedly. However...

There comes a time in every wallet's life when you have to step away from the cash register.

Cover of
Cover via Amazon
Although I spend more money on books than shoes, occasionally I do have to buy a new pair. And pay rent on the place where I keep all my hardbacks and paperbacks, and the electric bill that lets me charge my Kindle, and so on.

I can't always afford to buy new, or even used books. Sometimes, there's a book I need to read - for example, my book club has picked it out - and I'm not yet sure I want to invest money in this unknown author. We've all been there, haven't we, squandered ten or fifteen bucks (or more) on a book which it turned out, we didn't like or perhaps couldn't even finish?

My first introduction to libraries was a Bookmobile that came to my elementary school.

It was interesting and exciting, because it was new! and we got to leave the classroom! But my family had more books at home, I thought, and the Bookmobile carried a very limited selection for readers of my age.

Then we moved, and I started at a new school. One that had an actual, on site library.

I will never forget my first peek inside the library, of realizing that all those books, from my old friends Curious George and the other books for little kids on that side of the room, to the glorious shelves on the other side that reached to heaven (okay, a little above my head), were available for the reading.

My friend Hilaree calls it "the ah-aah moment," you know, when the clouds part and a bright beam of sunshine streams down and you hear angelic voices singing, "Ah-aah."

The Romance, The Mystery, the Shame

I remember the airy, two story HS library with thick red carpeting, and big windows that looked out into the courtyard. And two internal staircases. Another, older library in the center of town, not particularly well-lit,with its tightly packed rows of books and old book smell, made me feel as if I was sneaking books out of a Duke or Earl's private library, especially when as a teen I'd check out the sexy books and wonder if someone would try to stop me.

library card found in pittsburgh pennsylvania
library card found in pittsburgh pa
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I recently went to a book event and almost swooned when I received my raffle tickets tucked into an old-fashioned library card sleeve. Anybody remember library cards? The librarian would stamp the due date on a small index card that bore dozens of previous date stamps, and she'd tuck the card into the sleeve on the inside front of the book. Now library books carry bar codes; they're scanned and they give you a flimsy computer-printed receipt. *sad face* Not that I'm not grateful, but it seems much less romantic.

I remember having to keep slipping those inked up cards out of the pocket to check when my books were due back. The tension, the drama, the feverish reading into the wee hours of the night, because I had to know what happened before I returned them.

Or on tenterhooks, going to the library to beg for an extension of the loan, for a book not quite finished, hoping no one else had reserved the book after me. Now you can just log on and renew your books online. Again, I'm grateful, but the mystery and suspense is gone.

And oh, the shame when library books were overdue! Slinking up to the counter with my pennies and abject apologies.

Modern Libraries - Like Friends With Benefits

They're clean, they're all airy and well-lit, with inviting reading areas, computers, work tables, and plenty of space to move around - a vast improvement for our brother and sister readers who have disabilities. If there's a little less mystery and romance, there's much more comfort and familiarity.

And it's mot just physical books, anymore, but most libraries carry books on tape/CD, DVD's, magazines, and more.

Also, provided you belong to a city or county with a big enough library system, you can check out e-books! Just concluded my first adventure with checking out an e-library book.

First (no duh!) you need a current library card. If you haven't checked out a book in several years, you may have to stop into an actual library building and get a new library card.

They even come with handy key tags now.

Then you can log into your system and find your books. If you want a dead tree book, you can see if it's on the shelf at your local library branch, and if not, but it's at another library in the system, you can arrange to have it transferred over.

With an e-books, there can be a wait list for newer or more popular titles. (The Steve Jobs autobiography wait list was at 400 or so, when I idly checked it.) Also, not all books offer any e-version, let alone one for your Kindle/Nook/iPad (though most newer releases do). When you find your book in your format, click a few buttons, and it'll download to your device either automatically, or next time you are connected to a hot spot (my Kindle is old school, it's not constantly online).

When your book is close to coming due, you'll get a reminder, and then, on the day after your e-book was due back - it's been automatically removed from your device. Magic! No dashing to the library in your sweatpants and bunny slippers!

(Though I'm sure that unlike me, you look adorable in your sweatpants and bunny slippers.)

You also get a message on your Kindle telling you it's been removed, and asking if you'd like to buy the book - so if you loved it and want your very own copy, just another couple of clicks.

I'm happy to purchase books when funds permit, but my wallet is even happier that I'm also a book borrower through my public library.

How about you? Got a fond childhood library memory?
Have you been to a library lately?
What are your experiences checking out e-books?
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