Friday, April 13, 2018

I Miss Libraries

When I was a mid-sized lass, I would spend hours in the library.  I would've lived in my elementary school library if they'd allowed it.  What a place of joy and wonder.  Then I discovered the public library.  I would've happily lived there, too.  Surrounded by my friends, the books.  I could walk in there and wander through, picking out any books I wanted without interruption or distraction. 

For me, it was mostly the paperback section I was interested in.  Science fiction and fantasy, for the most part, and romance or suspense or mystery.  Anything I wanted, there it was.  I'd even occasionally pick up a non-fiction, although my selections there tended more toward nature than anything else.  Books, though.  And quiet.

That's what a library is to me.  And I miss that.

The last several times I was in a library, there was a big bank of computers taking up valuable book space.  And at the screens, people who could really have cared less about books.  They were playing games or searching the web or writing resumes. There were also kids running around or playing with toys.  Books forgotten.

That makes me sad.

When I was young, all I had to do was give them my name and address, and they presented me with a card so that I could check out any book I wanted.  I tried to get a card at the local library here.  They wanted physical proof I lived here in the form of a utility bill - my driver's license with a local address and checks with a local address were apparently insufficient proof.  Why all hullabaloo?  So I didn't make off with any of their books permanently.  As if.

That also makes me sad.

There's a meme going around FB.  Something about sharing to prove libraries are still relevant.  Except they aren't.  The libraries I loved are gone.  People can get books anywhere they want - for free or for cheap.  I can go to Amazon right now and download a dozen in less time than it would take me to warm up my car for the half-hour trip to the library.  And no one harasses me while I'm doing it.

The libraries of today?  They're social gathering places and internet cafes, with books on the side as decoration. 

One of the last times I was in a library, at least a couple years ago, they were having a book sale.  The entire basement was filled with books for sale.  And I would venture that there were more books on the shelves in the basement than were on the shelves for patrons upstairs.  But the sale was to raise money to build a newer and bigger library, which will probably have more space for computers and social things.  :heavy sigh:  I rescued a huge box full of the titles.  Not to help them build a new library but to rescue the tomes from people who didn't appreciate them.

When I first published my own books, I took copies to the local libraries.  I was so full of joy and naivete, waiting for them to show up on the shelves and in their catalog system.  They never did.  One of my library donated books made it into the paper in their 'new on the shelves' article.  They spelled my name wrong.  I never went back.

I have my own library now.  Shelves and shelves of my friends.  It's not the same as the old library I used to love, but it's better than the libraries of today.  Quiet, solitude, and books. 


  1. I'm not sure what you'd think of the library in Calgary. Fish Creek is the one I go to most often. It's one of the busiest library branches in Canada. Sometimes the only place to park is in the shopping mall lot, now empty because it used to be Sears. Yes there are lots of computers and DVD's (blue ray even!) and CDs of music. Yes, there are lots of kids running around and there is some noise. But there are still lots and lots of books, and comfy chairs to sit in nearby.
    Southwood I don't go to as often. It's smaller, and is more traditional, in that the books to computer ratio is higher. No idea about other branches, though I hear the new Central Library is going to be an exciting place, if perhaps less of a traditional library.
    I think if I had my druthers, I'd rather see libraries be full of life, including modern amenities like computers, and including books, rather than just racks of books that nobody ever sees and the local municipality shuts it down for lack of use. Libraries are a lifeline and need to be kept open.

  2. So many library stories, and all of them tied up with frayed and faded red ribbons of memory of my dad. I use my library. Sort of. It's "metro" so besides the branches in OKC, there are branches in the surrounding suburban communities. My town is getting a brand new library. The old one was deemed too small so it moved into empty space at a local shopping center while the large, modern new building is built on the same land as the old. I go in occasionally to pick up paper copies of books that I want to read but don't want to buy. Mainly, I use their online services for ebooks and audiobooks for books I want to read/listen to but don't want to buy.

    I understand the need the library has to serve it's population--the computers, the kids activities and play areas. Most of those kids won't see a book in their home but maybe the books surrounding them in the library will rub off on them.

    Still, I understand--completely--the nostalgia. I remember Saturday mornings spent in the original library--a Georgine-esque gray granite with a circular and columned entrance--while my dad went to the office to work. He'd drop me off, I'd read, and gather up a huge stack of books to check out when he arrived to pick me up. The next Saturday, I would return that stack, sit and read, and pick new books to check out. The head librarian's name was Mrs. Lake. And she was my hero.

  3. I haven't been in a library since they added computers. :-/

  4. Ours in Matthews is still a good one...the computers and whatnot are there, but not the focus or in the middle of everything. Good separation between the kid section and adult section of the building, too. I go there pretty frequently to get my work done.