In keeping with our plan to tighten the purse strings this year, we canceled our Netflix subscription a couple of months ago. Now we rent movies from the library, which has worked out well since our library has really expanded its DVD selection over the past year or two.
We were visiting the library recently to return some DVDs and pick up new ones, when it just hit me…that feeling I get when I walk into a library. I love the quiet hush of a library, all the displays of books, all the long racks with thousands of books to choose from. That feeling of possibility and excitement – it’s free and I can choose so many books to read, if I wish.
As a kid, I absolutely loved the library. I still do as an adult, but it was different when I was younger – all that free time I could fill with good books! Our town library wasn’t close enough to walk to (or I would have been there every day), so I had to hope my mom or dad would give me a ride and then pick me up. (I actually don’t remember if they waited for me or came back for me, to be honest.) I used to add little pockets and check-out cards to the books I owned, just in case anyone wanted to check them out from my own ‘library.’ I was fascinated with the whole process – getting my own library card, using it to check books out, watching the librarian stamp the due date on the card before she slipped it into the book pocket. It was such a reassuring ritual.
At one point I remember setting a goal to read all the books in my town’s library. I got a couple rows through the As in Fiction before I gave that up. It was always fun to just scan the rows of books and pluck out the ones with intriguing titles. Sometimes I would go with the intention of checking out specific books or a specific author, but oftentimes I would just browse and find completely new and unplanned books to read. I also used to just flip through the card catalog to find books that sounded interesting, especially on certain subjects.
Over the years, things at the library changed. The stamped cards gave way to bar codes that were scanned in order to check out the book. My beloved card catalog is now a thing of the past; we use computers to look up books. Oh, it was hard getting used to that! I remember our local library kept the card catalog for quite a while, but also gave patrons the option of using one or two computers to find books. I always used the card catalog, until it was removed and I was forced to use the computers. I did find a silver lining though – I figured out how to dial into the library computer system with my dial-up modem so I could look for books from the comfort of my own home. How modern!
Now the library has e-books, DVDs and video games in addition to books and magazines and who knows what else. It’s kind of amazing all the things you can do at your local library; I’m sure I don’t know half of the services mine offers.
On a hearing loss-related side note: Our library recently added theft detection devices right by the entrance. Well, I should clarify: They had such devices for many years, but recently upgraded to a different type. I noticed this because now when I walk between the theft detection things, my CIs completely shut off. I mean, I become instantly deaf. I also get a little dizzy, and it’s a really icky feeling, so now I make sure to slip both the magnets from my head before I enter or leave the library. I think it’s got to do with some kind of magnetic frequency that they use, but it’s unlike any other theft detection device I’ve ever walked through and I really dislike it. I’m always afraid it’s going to scramble my CI programs, even though I know that’s crazy.
A few years ago, Dave and I bought a NookColor. This was back when they were first introduced and you had to put your name on a waiting list. For us, it was pretty expensive and it was our joint Christmas gift to each other – we wrapped it up and it was the one gift with our names on it under the tree. I really resisted buying an e-reader; I felt they were crazy expensive (this was back when Kindle was the only real option and it was something like $599). I still really, really liked holding a book and reading it. I couldn’t see why I would ever want electronic books. Dave basically agreed with me but he’s always been more open to new technology than I’ve been so he wasn’t as vehemently against it as I was. It was his idea to spring for the Nook when we got it; he wanted to hack it and turn it into an Android tablet.
So we got the Nook. And it was fun, but I still pretty much shunned it. I’d use it here and there, mainly if I was waiting for Dave (he had a lot of tests at the VA hospital that year, so I had many days where I was waiting four to six hours for him the waiting room). Dave was the primary Nook user; I stuck to my paper books.
After a year or two, Dave managed to get an HP Touchpad when they were doing their fire sale; it became his birthday gift that year. He handed the NookColor down to me. I was fairly baffled, and it took me a long time to figure out the Android system and apps and all that. I started forcing myself to use the Nook more to get used to it, but I still kept reading actual books as well. I’m an active Paperback Swap member and I really enjoy getting a new book in the mail, basically for free (I use my PBS credits to order them) and mailing out my own books when I’m finished with them. It appeals to my thrifty nature.
But I started to see the appeal of e-books. I liked being able to check them out of the library (although the selection isn’t near as good as the actual books the library has). I really, really liked being able to change the font size; that is probably the biggest appeal to me, with my aging eyesight. And I liked the lighter weight – all you have to hold is the e-reader, which is quite light compared to, say, Under the Dome by Stephen King.
So I’ve become a semi-convert. I usually have two books going at a time now: one on the e-reader and one actual paper book. (Right now I’m reading Giant George: Life with the World’s Biggest Dog on the Nook and Personal History [by Katharine Graham] as my paper book – it came from Paperback Swap.) This suits me well. Dave, however, will not touch a paper book with a ten-foot pole. He is amazingly firm about it. For instance, I got the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed from the library. I knew he wanted to read it as much as I did, and I finished it fairly quickly (I loved it) so I still had a ways to go before it had to be returned. I offered it to him and he flatly refused; he read it on his tablet instead. If a book isn’t available in e-book form but I can find it for him at the library or through Paperback Swap, he just will not read the book at all. So stubborn, this man!
Still though, nothing compares to holding a real book in your hand. So many of my fond childhood memories are of books (Nancy Drew, The Story About Ping, Heidi, numerous Little Golden Books, all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, A Wind in the Door and A Wrinkle in Time, The Chronicles of Narnia, Judy Blume…I could go on and on). Many of these books I kept and they are still on the bookshelf in my room. Some of them I read to my own kids. Eric and Paige have favorite books too, and I have them saved in my hope chest for them. It just wouldn’t be the same with an e-book.
So anyway, I still get that warm, fuzzy feeling when I walk into a library. Even though our library is all modern and updated, it still feels nostalgic to me.
Found inside one of my old books: First signature, then: “Written w/ink cartridge pen VERY carefully…” After that, “6th grade, regular writing” with my “regular” signature, apparently. I was a weird kid!