Recently, a number of the authors I follow on Twitter were talking about people pirating their books online. After my first shock and disillusionment wore off (I know people do this with movies, but surely, surely readers don’t!), I started to wonder why people were doing this rather than going to the libraries. Have they really forgotten the wonderfulness of libraries? Libraries are amazing places!
Libraries Have Books!
Libraries have books, lots and lots of books that you can check out for free. Stop and think about what this means. They have more books than you can read in a lifetime and they’re right there, just waiting to be taken home and read. Wanting to start a new craft project? Pick up all the interesting looking books, take them home, and then use the ones you like. Also, libraries come in systems, which means if a book you want is not available in one library, it might be in another in-system, and a hold and a short wait will bring it right to you.
Libraries are also a fabulous way to discover new books. My favorite way to discover a book is still happening upon it as it sits on a shelf. I have lost track of how many books and authors I have found this way. I discovered Carola Dunn because Death at Wentwater Court was two shelves up from the mystery I went to pick up; the cover caught my eye, the idea was interesting, I took it home, and the rest is history. Patricia McKillip kept being shelved close to Robin McKinley, so I eventually gave up and took some of those books home. Now I own almost all of them and look forward to her new books eagerly (Ok, so checking books out is only almost risk free; you might find yourself buying them!). The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater was on display. As I said, I have lost track of the books I have found this way. Online recommendations are good, and I use them all the time, but there is something to be said for standing there, holding the book in your hand and finding something you never even knew to ask about.
If a library does not have a book you want, you can always ask them to get it. Most libraries have handy online forms you can fill out. The book doesn’t always get purchased—libraries have this pesky thing called budgets—but it might. I’ve seen it happen, though in those cases I cannot swear it was solely and only because I asked.
Libraries are Online
It’s not just the library catalogs that are online; there are an increasing number of audio- and e- books available for checkout. The catalog being online is dangerous enough; it is entirely too easy to find out that I want a book and go instantly to reserve it only to find myself lugging home a heavy bag of books after my next library visit (This is a complaint that is not really a complaint, in case you are wondering). But the ebooks and audiobooks? Oh my. There is stuff to listen to while I garden, and there is the pleasure of instant gratification. For example, when I checked out The Raven Boys, I checked out only The Raven Boys. I then stayed up late reading it and discovered I wanted The Dream Thieves right away. It was available as an ebook, so I got another late night out of it without ever going anywhere (Blue Lily, Lily Blue was still in the author’s head, so I had to wait on that one, just like I am having to wait for the fourth book now).
This isn’t even getting into the online databases, reference works, and free music archives that are also available.
Libraries Have Librarians
Librarians are amazing people. I have no idea where the whole stereotype of the crabby librarian came from. I have years of library addiction behind me, and I have only ever met two cross librarians (and they worked at the same place. It may have been something in the water). All of the others have been cheerful, book-loving, helpful people who love talking about their favorite subject. They will recommend books and they will help you find books—even when the books are misshelved, even when you can’t remember the title. Most misshelved books are misshelved in predictable patterns, and librarians memorize those pretty quickly.As for remembering titles, the whole infamous “I don’t remember the title but it had a blue cover” clue might be asking a bit too much even of a super librarian, but I have had them find books based on some pretty vague descriptions.
Librarians these days very often end up helping people with computer problems, rebooting the library computers, and explaining library apps—or at least telling one where to find the online app help. They really are quite amazing, even when they’re not out tracking obscure artifacts in order to save the world.
Libraries Offer a Whole Lot More
I’ve focused on books, but of course, libraries hold all sorts of other media, usually for free or extremely low-rental costs. There are CD’s, DVD’s, and the odd VHS available on the shelves, and those are often welcome. For example, I was floundering around for something to watch while waiting for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries to be available, and someone suggested House of Eliott. It doesn’t happen to be available on Netflix, but it is in the library system, so now I get to discover a new costume drama.
I know, I know, I’m being vague here. The truth is, I only use a fraction of the services that the local libraries offer, so I don’t even know what all of them are. There are book groups, of course, where one can go talk books . A couple of libraries near here host craft groups, which is a neat way to meet people. Then there are the job-hunting services, the free computer use (though the time is usually limited), free online classes in a number of subjects, hosted concerts, preschool reading times, and I have no idea how much else.
To get back to my point: Libraries are wonderful. Go visit one! Go visit several. Check out books. Talk to the librarian. Be happy!
Oh, and don’t pirate books. That’s just mean.