Friday, May 29, 2009

Libraries...is the magic gone?

I grew up in a small town with no bookstores. In fact most of the time I lived there we didn't even have a WalMart. So, there were literally no places to buy books. Going to St. Louis or Springfield (MO) were a huge deal and boy did I look forward to book shopping. But because of where I grew up, I used the library a lot. I read every Zane Grey novel they had (bought a bunch directly from the publisher too through the little form inside the back cover), read and re-read A Little Princess, and just wandered the stacks looking for new fun books to discover.

It was all I had.

Now, however things have changed. You can buy books new and used in a wide variety of formats and everywhere from the grocer to online. Books are a lot easier to come by, but I still use the library, just not the same way.

As I said, when I was younger, the library was where I discovered things. It was magical. I would just walk around and see what jumped out at me. Now, instead of window shopping I tend to know exactly what I want. In fact, frequently I reserve whatever I am looking for online and just stop by to pick it up. I do a little window shopping while my kids are looking for videos, but I don't do a lot on my own.

Also, what I get from the library has changed. Used to it was anything they had because well, there weren't other choices, but now it tends to be things I don't want to buy new--either came out in hardback first (or only); is an author I am close to giving up on, but not quite yet to; or a new to me author who I saw somewhere and want to try. If it is an author I know I love (and she hasn't gone to hardback, because I just don't buy many hardbacks and I hate waiting to read something everyone else is already reading) I'll buy new. And so far as wandering and discovering, I go to a bookstore--new or used.

So, why have libraries lost the magic of discovery for me? I think they could still have that magic, but they don't buy as many paperback originals as other books or if they do they aren't as loved. In the library closest to my house the paperbacks are really spread out in kind of left over space, and at others the selection is poor. There is one library here that has spinning displays for their paperbacks, however, that I love. I used to "discover" great books there all the time, but now I don't live as close.

So, how about you? Do you still use the library? How is it different from how you used to? Do you use it to window shop? Or just pick up the things you know you want to read?

6 comments:

Chris said...

I love my library system! I'm very, very spoiled, because my library system has won national awards.

I would be destitute (or at least have to build furniture from books) if I bought all the books I read - even buying used. I've probably read 250 books so far this year.

I definitely do a lot of reserving online and stopping by to pick up the books when I get the email they've arrived. But I still browse, too. Within 15 minutes of where I work, I can reach at least six different branch libraries. I love to visit different branches periodically and poke through the paperback shelves and the new books.

Each week, I also stop at the branch library, which is a "withdrawn" store. Oh, that store is dangerous. Very dangerous. But wonderful.

Lori Devoti said...

What is a withdrawn store? Used books?
Actually our libraries book sale is tomorrow. My kids are very excited. :)

Kimberly B. said...

I've recently rediscovered the library, due to budgetary concerns. I live in Minneapolis, and we have a great library system, as far as I'm concerned---lots of new and popular books. One of the branches is really close to me---in walking distance when it's warm, and in the wintertime, well, it's where I transfer buses, so very convenient. I prefer to own the books I enjoy, because I'm an avid re-reader, but the library is really good at supplying with books I am a. uncertain about or b. anxious to read, but not able to afford.
The other thing I think is really awesome about libraries is that they have librarians who specialize is children's books. Many bookstores do as well, but to be the children's specialist at a bookstore you don't need to go through any special training the way children's librarians do. I fondly remember the children's librarian at the bookmobile when I was a kid---she's the one who pointed me towards A Wrinkle in Time!

azteclady said...

I love libraries--if for nothing else, because my mother was a librarian for well over thirty years.

Her job allowed her to provide us with books through our childhood and youth that we probably wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise. It's a sad truth that public libraries in Mexico while I was growing up were... well, let's just say they existed in an extremely limited budget.

But here in Florida it's an entirely different story. As my kids became as voracious readers as myself, having the library nearby was not a luxury but a necessity--no way could anyone afford the number of books these two could devour in a week!

Now that they are all grown up(ish) I use the library a lot less, though, but I definitely appreciate that it's there.

Renee said...

I work for a really good library, so I'm pretty prejudiced; I think we're doing a great job. For many years we didn't buy most paperback fiction, which distressed many of us. But fortunately, times have changed and we now buy many paperbacks, from all genres, and our book buyers are also responsive to suggestions for purchase. Of course, there's room for improvement, and currently also budget concerns, but I have hopes that we will get better and better.

e_booklover said...

I am moving to a new city and so on my check things out visit one of my first stops was the city library to see what was required for a membership. I have lots of memories growing up practically in my local library and I look forward to making more. Thanks for reminding me of how wonderful a place they are.