As a small child who read voraciously, my parents’ wallets just couldn’t keep up with me. A visit to Barnes & Noble to buy a book was a special occasion, usually saved for birthdays or other big milestones. But the everyday solution? The local library. Once a week, my mom would pile my younger siblings and I in the car and drive us to the library, setting us free for about an hour. The instructions were clear: you have to pick out enough books to last you an entire week, because we are not making another trip. Immediately, I would set off, like a knight on an epic quest, determined to find the right books to last me a week.
We lived in a small, rural area, which meant that our library was quite tiny. Since then, I’ve visited much bigger libraries with much cooler amenities. Most libraries have tables full of computers, access to expensive online databases, helpful research librarians, and some even have study rooms that you can reserve for solo studying, study groups, or even tutoring. Our library had none of that—just three rooms, for Adult, Young Adult, and Kids, each filled with shelves and shelves of books. I tried to stay in the Kids section, although as I got older, I started to want to read books from the Young Adults section, but that room was always filled with teenagers, and my little introverted bookworm self was too afraid to go in there, so I would ask my fearless mom to brave the trip and get my books for me.
In the safety of the Kids section, however, I explored every shelf. I would always pick out seven books, sometimes eight to be safe, one for each day. I would inspect each book, looking at the page count, trying to decide if it could last me an entire day. A reading habit like that requires a lot of new material, and our little library always supplied it for me. From those shelves, I discovered and devoured the Percy Jackson series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Babysitter’s Club, the American Girl books, and many more. While I perused the fiction, my little brother would camp out in the non-fiction and collect books about castles, volcanoes, and WWII warfare. To this day, those are still the kinds of books he reads—they’ve just gotten thicker, with less pictures. My baby sister, the only non-reader in the family, would chill with the picture books. Fancy Nancy was always her favorite.
*Confession time* As an adult, I’ve become a Barnes & Noble person— a book snob if you will. I want my books to look pretty lining my bookshelves and I want to be able to make books my own. While there is nothing like that “new book smell” or the feeling of crisp, clean pages, it does come at a cost, a monetary and environmental cost. Libraries solve the problem of waiting to get a paycheck, so that you can throw money at the latest YA fantasy that catches your eye (and let’s be real here, when isn’t there a new sparkly YA fantasy barging on to the scene?). Also, you’re saving the trees by sharing one copy with hundreds of other people. Sharing is caring ya’ll. Also, going to the library forces you to crawl out of your cave and maybe interact with another book nerd, or the nerdiest of book nerds of all— a librarian.
In short, libraries are amazing and deserve our love and time. Check out your local library and see if there are any opportunities to volunteer. For hundreds of years, books have made the world a better place, why not help the places that keep these capsules of wonder and joy in business. Join a book club, volunteer to read stories to kids, or help teach adults to read. Growing up, my local library even had wild animal shelters visit, so that people could learn about local and wild animals that need to be protected.
So yeah, libraries are lit. Keep reading folks!