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.

IMG_3777

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.