Friday, July 20, 2012

On Libraries

Why didn't I spend more time in the library?

That's my regret du jour. I certainly developed a love of reading as a child, and had paperbacks that I read enough to wear the words from the page. But I don't remember actually going to the local public library much as a child: trips were few and far between, and generally tied to school assignments for research papers. Admittedly, our town library was small, and not an easy distance from our home. I actually had to consult a map of my hometown to locate it, and I now realize that it was on the outskirts of town, out by the county high school. Well, no wonder.

Still, what a shame. I made regular trips to our library in grad school when I lived in the Midwest, mostly to rummage through their meager CD collection in the basement to put together mix tapes for myself for the walk between my apartment and campus, or to raid their twice-yearly massive used-book sale. I don't think I ever actually checked out a book from there, though, which is also inexplicable, considering the typical impoverished lifestyle of your average graduate student. I didn't have a lot of leisure time for reading, I remember, typically trying to squeeze in a chapter or two of something at night before I fell asleep.

I'm making up for lost time now, with a monthly trip or two out to the local branch that sits an easy mile from my office. Fifteen minutes to walk out, fifteen back, and that leaves half an hour of browsing time. Since our system is computerized and has many branches, I'm able to tap into the large virtual corpus and request materials to be shipped to my local branch, and am emailed when they arrive, to really maximize that half hour. Today I was back in my old habits, checking out CDs, although this time it's to use for seeding my "songs heard" in the online music streaming service I use at work, and not copy to a cassette tape.

So why didn't I spend more time in the library? Access, I suppose, and general ignorance, and laboring under the false conception that I needed to own something to enjoy it, I guess. I've become a lot more borrow-friendly as I've aged. I still have those old favorite books at home on the shelf -- new hardback editions, most of them -- but I'm kicking myself retroactively for not taking more advantage of the great facilities I've had access to over the years.


notagain said...

we've often said if we'd had to buy all the books we read we couldn't afford the house! Did you try getting your own book purchased by the library?

teeritz said...

You know, I used to belong to four different libraries and I only ever borrowed one book. Something about wanting to keep it after I'd read it.
You post finds me at a point In my life where I am preparing to probably return to study and enrol in a Library Technician's course. I do wonder what role libraries have to play in the Digital Age, but the answers to these kinds of questions May be a little murky for the next few years.
I had a similar dilemma to yours when I lived 20 minutes away (on foot) from a cinema. Never went to see one film in the three years that I lived there.