A confession: for most of my life I’ve never really been one for libraries. I love books, and I’ve always loved the idea of libraries, but I’m also a very possessive person and I’ve never liked the idea of having to give things back. I often chafe under the idea of having to read a book or watch a movie within a certain time limit, with a due-date looming over me. For the last 20 years or so, I also haven’t lived in a place where the library was convenient or particularly appealing. I didn’t trust that they would have the books that are actually appealing to me, besides such classics as I would prefer to just own anyway. And coming from a family that has a strong love of books to begin with, it’s not like I ever lacked reading material in my own home. Public libraries were simply not a need in my life.
I now look back and feel I’ve been an unappreciative monster this whole time.
Now I live within walking distance of the local library and it is glorious. Especially in the current moment, as I am in a transitional stage of my life, with most of my own books in boxes, no room to store any new materials, and limited funds anyway, being able to browse and borrow books guilt-free has been good for my soul and my on-going education. Checking out books and having that due date loom over me has also been good at forcing me to assess what I actually have time to read at any given moment. I’ve always been horribly guilty about buying books that spark my interest but then rarely, if ever, get around to reading them. I can’t count the number books that I own and have never read and now can’t even remember where I got them. But borrowing books encourages me to be more mindful before picking something out and asking, do I actually have the time/need to read this right now? It has also helped me curb my possessiveness, as I’ve admitted that I’m not actually going to read most books a second time and therefore don’t actually need to own them. And if I decide that I do want to actually own a particular book, obviously I can always purchase it after having first read the library’s copy.
I’d also like to take a moment to sing the praises of the library’s DVD collection. I’ve finally cancelled the last of my video streaming services, because I don’t really watch television that frequently these days and I have quite a DVD collection of my own for when the fancy strikes me. But I still like discovering new movies and TV shows, and it’s nice to be able to do that for free rather than paying to rent or buy something. And the library’s selection has proven to be at least as diverse (and occasionally unreliable) as any of the streaming services. This past week I borrowed the new Little Women starring Saoirse Ronan (delightful) and At Eternity’s Gate, a movie about Vincent Van Gogh that I had been struggling to find anywhere without just buying it. There is also a good collection of different TV series to watch, if I am in a binging mood. So even as I simplify so many areas of my life, I am still able to keep some variety and exposure to new things.
Do you use your local library? Have you in the past? It’s such a beautiful way to utilize local resources, participate in the community, and keep our own lives simple and uncluttered.