I Love Libraries

Sunday, July 21, 2013
Libraries have always been a part of my life. My mother was a reader and she taught me a love of reading, too. Part of this included a trip to the Hicksville Public Library on alternate Saturdays.

Hicksville, NY is a suburb not too far from New York City. It was one of those towns that grew tremendously following World War II when returning veterans married, settled in their own homes, and got to raising all those Baby Boomers. The library I remember was the former home of Mrs. Frances Duerk. It was a cozy place full of wondrous books. I particularly remember an area they had set up under a window. It had a slanted shelf where you could rest the book you were reading. The windows were mullioned, cross-hatched into diamonds, and it looked out over a pretty garden. The shelf and the bench you sat on were dark wood.

I carefully considered which books I would borrow since you were only allowed to check out six at a time. I could easily finish six books in two weeks then. There was a time I started browsing the fiction starting with the letter A and worked my way toward the end of the alphabet over a period of months.

Over the years, the library got too small for the house. Funds were allocated and a new, red brick building was constructed adjoining the old house. I remember skirting the construction areas as we made our way to the old library. Once the new building was completed, the books were moved into it. It was brightly lit, had room for many more books, and was probably a big improvement over the old building as far as the staff was concerned. Yet, while I liked that fact that there were more books, I kind of missed the older, darker, cozier building.

I'm not sure when I discovered that you could borrow records as well as books from the library. This was amazing! I enjoy listening to music almost as much as I enjoy reading books. And now there was a way to try out new kinds of music without needing to buy it.

I stopped going to libraries for a while. Being a mother in addition to a full-time job left less time for reading. I would take out books, but not be able to finish them before the due date. I frequently returned them with overdue fines. Instead, I started going to bookstores. If I owned a book, I could take as much time as I needed to finish it. My book addiction grew to fill seven bookcases. I could have easily filled more, but I diligently thinned my collection each time I moved.

Not too long ago, I got back into the habit of using the library. Part of this was frugality. I no longer can spend money on books without thinking about how much they cost. Part is not being sure whether I'll like a book well enough to own it. Books from the major publishers have become very expensive. Even paperbacks and ebooks. When I'm trying a new author or a new series, I'm not ready to commit a lot of money to that trial. Getting it from the library is safer.

And the library has become an amazing place! I've gotten used to seeing DVDs of television programs and movies available to lend. Just about every library can lend you ebooks online as well.

But the Pima County Public Library also has a Seed Library. Yes, you can get seeds for your garden from the library. For free. They want to encourage sharing and saving seeds in the community. The library site points out that people have been doing this for thousands of years. We've just forgotten about it and have become more familiar with buying seeds at the garden center or from seed catalogs.

They're also sponsoring MangiaMania at the local community college next weekend. Cosplay, gaming, martial arts and anime viewings. This is definitely not your mother's public library.

One of my favorite new services is Zinio. This allows you to read magazines in digital format on your computer, tablet, or ereader.

I have the same problem with magazines as I have with books. I used to subscribe to several magazines, but the cost and storage space got out of hand. I tried subscribing to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine on my nook, but I didn't read it often. The experience just wasn't the same as a physical magazine. Even for a magazine that is mostly text. Anything with pictures, well, not hardly worth it.

But Zinio is free through the Pima County Library. Yes, there aren't unlimited choices, but I don't have time to read unlimited magazines. You can read them on your computer, but I spend too much time at my computer to want to read for pleasure. I download them to my iPad Mini. The technology isn't perfect because the source material isn't HTML and doesn't flow like ebooks do, but it's possible to have a good reading experience on a tablet. I'm having fun rediscovering magazines I haven't read in a while and discovering totally new ones as well.

You can use a computer at the library, get help with homework or writing a resume, join a book club. Now all I have to do is get my local branch to sponsor a mystery book club.


Solar_ted said...

Speaking of old, house type libraries, did you make use of Hull's library while you were there? It too is a lovely old house with nooks and crannies, solid wood, musty smelling books. Fortunately Hull has not outgrown it, partly because of the excellent lending library in the area that makes many more books available to us without closing/expanding the ole one.

I too like the Pima County library system.

Elise M Stone said...

Yes, Ted, I definitely went to the Hull library and enjoyed it as well. There was also the library in Selden, NY that I believe was also formerly a house. I wonder if people still leave their homes to small towns so that they can have libraries.

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