GratiTuesday: Public Libraries

I spent a lot of time in my neighborhood library as I was growing up. I remember going with my mother at least once a week to check out books; usually borrowing two or three at a time. When I got older, I’d meet my friends there and we’d often do our homework sitting at the wooden desks they had scattered around. It was always kind of a magical place: not only did they have what seemed to be a never-ending supply of FREE books, but the building felt safe and familiar and the librarians were always a helpful source of information.


For some reason, I stopped going to public libraries in my young adulthood. I never stopped reading, but my books mostly came from bookstores, yard sales, or were passed on to me by friends. Later, of course, I also started purchasing books from online sources.

After my husband retired two years before I did, he became a library devotee. Each time he visited our local branch, he’d came home with four or five books. Then about a week later, he’d return to drop off what he had read and get a new supply.

When I retired one of the first acts of my new-found freedom was to get my very own library card. That day I learned that a lot had changed during the many years of my absence (not that I was surprised, it had been a long time). The only downside is that I had to come up with YET ANOTHER username and password because so much can be done online now. I can research books, order them, and renew them all on my computer. How great is that?

I am now happily rediscovering the magic of the public library. We have a beautiful, brand new, main library downtown, but there is something so special about the local neighborhood branches. Familiar faces can usually be found staffing the front desk and they are always pleased to recommend a title or two based on our individual tastes.

Some people have questioned the need for public libraries in our modern world. Just about everything can be found online, they argue. Maintaining brick and mortar buildings housing books made from paper is an expensive anachronism. I wish those people would visit my local library sometime. I think they’d be amazed at what they’d see and would understand the need for this great resource.

Our latest finds, including a book by my newest favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver.
Our latest finds, including a book by my newest favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver.

Budget shortfalls often hit our public libraries hard. Hours are curtailed, staffing is reduced, and services are cut. Even though the public often gives their libraries higher ratings for effectiveness than other local services such as parks and police, they are mostly unaware of financial difficulties facing them.

I am so grateful for those who ensure funding through taxes, local support, private philanthropy, and library “friends” efforts, so that our public libraries can be kept open and operating. They understand the value and the magic that books hold for all of us.

Author: Janis @

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

37 thoughts on “GratiTuesday: Public Libraries”

  1. I love my local library. I am there at least once a week. We won a National Medal a few years ago and our place is always packed with people. Real books will never go out of style!

    1. There was a very big controversy before they built the new main library downtown. Many felt that libraries just weren’t relevant anymore. Now it’s the newest jewel of our beautiful city! I sure hope you are right about “real” books!

  2. I live in a small ‘burb outside of a city. We don’t have a library but are eligible to use the city one free. It is the Taj Mahal of libraries. My brother and his wife use it almost exclusively. One of these days I will have to check it out. My biggest problem is that I am a weird reader. I may start a book and not pick it up again for 2 weeks. That’s tough to do with a library book due back.

    1. I’m kind of a weird reader too. I often only pick up my book right before I go to sleep so I only read a few pages. When I was young, I remember check-outs to be for two weeks. Now it is three and I can renew two times so it hasn’t been a problem yet. The best thing is that I can order my upcoming book club books so I can read them well in advance.

  3. As usual, you’ve written a great post!

    these days, I am reducing “stuff”. I no longer buy physical books. I either go to the library, or if they don’t have the book I need (for book club), I buy an electronic version.

    Fortunately, our libraries are heavily utilized. They offer lots of different programs for kids and adults, and have just started providing passes to museums in the greater NY/no area. How great is that?

    1. Wow, free passes… that is great! I always order my book club books well in advance so I don’t miss out and have plenty of time to get through them (have you read The Lacunda by Barbara Kingsolver?). I still haven’t gone electronic (except for one or two I have on my iPad).

  4. I love the library. I worked as a circulation clerk at our local library when we lived in Denver, wonderful, fun job. I haven’t bought a book in almost 20 years, always get them from the library. I read “actual” books in the winter and electronic in the summer when we’re at our cabin.
    I’m glad you’ve rediscovered the library, enjoy!

  5. Thanks for the great post, Janis…and for the timely reminder! Since retiring I have been planning on joining our town library but have not yet done so (I have been resorting to bookstores, rereading books that we already own, on-line reading, and the “borrow-a-book” system that we have along our public beaches here. Memo to self: Go join the public town library…today!!

  6. Reblogged this on Snakes in the Grass and commented:
    Janis writes a wonderful ode to the public library on her equally wonderful “Retirementally Challenged” blog. I couldn’t say it any better, though since I have made myself the Milton Berle of blog post intellectual property theft, I probably will hijack this at some future point too. Well done, Janis!

  7. Libraries (and bookstores) have always been some of my favorite places. When I was a kid we had a bookmobile that served our area and I always looked forward to its arrival, too. Recently, I joined my local Friends of the Library group. My niece, who is a corporate librarian, had her formal wedding in a large, central library. I guess love of libraries is in our blood. Great post, Janis!

      1. It was a beautiful wedding held after hours so we had the place to ourselves. Her wedding was included in an article which featured unique weddings in “Brides” magazine. I just recently joined the “friends” group here and I’m looking forward to getting involved. I think the groups are a big help to the local branches.

  8. Glad I found your blog! We are traveling down very similar paths! One of my happiest discoveries is that I can use the Overdrive Media app to download e-books from my public library right to my Nook! While I am a retired teacher and will never lose the love of a real book, there’s something to be said for being able to check out a new book, in bed…at midnight! I look forward to following your blog! Enjoy the voyage!

    1. I haven’t quite gotten comfortable with e-books yet. I love curling up with the actual book and turning real paper pages. I know they are great for traveling so I’m sure I’ll join the e-book converts at some point. Thank you for following my blog… I would like to follow yours too but I can’t find the link to receiving email notices when you post each time. I’m sure I’m just overlooking something obvious.

      1. I too, am a huge fan of real books, especially the smell. The hubs and I routinely go on “Barnes & Noble dates!” I just want to read, snack and “pet” all of the books I want to read! As for my email sign up, I’m in the process of moving this blog, and my Encore Voyage blog over to WordPress from Blogger. Keep checking back, please…I’m workin’ on it! 🙂 Thanks!

  9. I don’t use the library nearly as much as I should. But, reading is a window to the world. I still learn so much everytime I read a very good book.

    You have reminded me that the library is right there at our fingertips. It truly is a miracle. I think it is Benjamin Franklin we can thank for that.

  10. Good post. Many libraries also offer great community programming for non-profits. Our library has a great online resource so I can access e-magazines at no charge beyond my annual membership. This has been a great way for us to download and read magazines while we are traveling.

  11. Public libraries are extraordinary! You have the same experiences I had. When we would prepare for our annual 2 weeks in Yosemite each summer, my mom took us to the library and I would literally have a box of books checked out. I read every single one of them too. I have also thought about sponsoring one of those “little libraries” in front of my house. I live close to a school. Great post that brought back some cool memories! I am grateful for libraries!

    1. I loved coming home with an armload of books! I’ve heard about those neighborhood library boxes (and maybe saw a few ideas for handmade ones – hint to your talented husband – on Pinterest) and think that’s such a great idea!

  12. Loving your Gratitude Tuesday series. Gratitude is awesome in and of itself, but I love how it is generating such interesting topic ideas for your blog. Also, when I got to this post, I thought of another blogger friend you might be interested in (retired Librarian now traveler) Do you know Anabel?

    1. I have found my way here! Thanks so much for the recommendation (both ways). This is a great post about why libraries are still important. The arguments against are so short-sighted – “everything’s online” (it isn’t, and libraries often offer extra access via subscriptions) and “books are so cheap, everyone can afford them” (what about children, older people, housebound people?). Just this week, a local authority in Scotland announced it was withdrawing all its school librarians. Exactly the people who instil a love of reading in children! Libraries create an informed and educated electorate – maybe it’s no wonder governments don’t seem to like them. Rant over!

        1. So far, only one local authority (county) has said it is withdrawing them completely, but most others have cut the numbers so that they only spend a couple of days in each school. Very shortsighted (and probably saves very little money).

    2. I’m glad that you are enjoying the series! I’ve had fun coming up with a topic each week (even though I have a lot to be grateful for). Thank you for the introduction to Anabel… I’ll check out her blog now!

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