When my boys were young we had a weekly outing that we always looked forward to. Sometimes we enjoyed it so much we went twice a week. Where did we go? To our local public library. We spent hours in the library. We left each time with bags overflowing with books, CDs, videos and DVDs, and sometimes puzzles.
Maybe it was because the library has always been one of my personal favorite places that I felt the need to make my sons comfortable there. I remember when I was in the trenches with seven boys at home 24/7 and my husband would come home and offer me the chance to get away by myself for a while. I usually went to the library. It was quiet and filled with fresh ideas everywhere I looked. I could spend hours looking at quilt books or gardening books or genealogy books. It was just what I needed to regain my perspective.
My boys learned to love the library too. They were allowed to take home as many books as they could carry on any subject that interested them as long as it was in good taste and appropriate for their ages. Once in a while, I had to veto a selection but most of the time they were pretty good at choosing appropriate books and movies. We tried having everyone use their own card but it got quite complicated keeping track of due dates. The fines began to pile up so we finally decided to have all the books checked out on my card so I could keep track of everything in one place. We took home tons of books. Our library had no limits on how many items could be checked out and our all-time record is 175 items signed out at one time. I often wondered if I should have an insurance rider on our homeowner’s policy. Would insurance cover all those books if something happened to them in our home?
With all the electronic gadgets available to kids now, it is harder to get them interested in reading. I know my boys aren’t interested in going to the library with me anymore. Yes, I still go regularly! I think it’s important to support the public library in this age of rapidly changing technology. We need to continue to have access to books in whatever form they take but for me, there’s still nothing that compares to curling up with a physical book, one that I can hold in my hand and savor. I do have a Kindle and I have hundreds of books stored on it. I take it with me and enjoy the ease with which I can read at any moment. But I still love the books I get from the library, that I lug home in my well-worn book bag.
Special programs and events. My boys took advantage of special events and storytime activities at the library. We were on a first name basis with all of the children’s librarians. Once the boys were even asked to be in a publicity photo that was used to kick off the summer reading program. We participated in the summer reading program every year for more than two decades.
Digital and online resources. Libraries are trying hard to keep up with the times. Most libraries have digital books available and our library has just announced that you can sign out e-readers if you don’t own one. You can still get the latest movie on DVD and some on Blue-Ray as well. You can use the library’s computers and access their databases from there or even from your home computer. I regularly log into our library’s genealogy databases. My boys are using the Mango language program this year to learn Japanese and German.
Libraries need your support. There has been much talk in the news about the decline of library patronage. I think it’s important that we send the message that libraries still serve an important function in our society. Some places to become more informed include the following:
Keys to the Whole World: American Public Libraries – NPR series about the value of libraries.
Geek the Library – an organization whose mission is to keep the public library as a valuable asset to American society.
The Future of the Library– Seth Godin explains why librarians are more important now than they ever were.
Do you call yourself a library patron? How do you use your public library? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.