A couple of weeks ago I went downtown and did something I hadn’t done forever.  Some friends thought I was crazy to do it; others thought I was crazy for not having done it sooner. I went there regularly as a teenager, but as an adult I had forgotten it was option. Nobody else I knew wanted to do this. Some thought I’d be harassed there, another friend thought there would be too many germs. But one fine summer afternoon, I decided to go for it.

I signed up for a library card.

We Go Way Back

As a kid, I was probably one of our public library’s best customers. I read tons of books and loved the adventure of looking for new gems. I remember discovering mystery/thriller books and devouring them. For a while, I read every book written by Jeffrey Archer and fell in love with the book Rebecca by Daphne DuMarier.

I also learned about the birds and bees at the library. I would look up books on this subject that nobody talked about much. I’d hide in the corner, curiously learning about this topic that I found both interesting and horrifying at the same time.

Aside from this racy side of the library, I did more mundane tasks there too. I looked up microfiche and did research. I made copies on their copier. As I got older, I studied for tests and prepared for debate there. I knew my way around the place and felt at home.

The Lure of Amazon

But as an adult, I discovered Barnes and Noble. I would go there as often as I could, browsing the book shelves and tables, sitting in their overstuffed chairs and enjoying myself. Once after completing a very large task, my big reward for myself was going there and buying a couple of books, just for the heck of it. A friend asked me if that was all the better I could do for my reward? Yes, that was the best I could do.

Eventually, Amazon replaced Barnes and Noble. I began ordering books online.

After some time, I got tired of hauling books on trips and bought an e-reader. For a while, I marveled at how easy it was to instantly download a book and begin reading. Talk about instant gratification. And no matter where I was, I easily had my assortment of books on hand.

Sadly, my love affair with my e-reader wasn’t a match made in heaven. I missed books with real pages. Reading on a device just wasn’t as satisfying. And without seeing a book’s cover repeatedly, I found it hard to remember the names of the books I had read.

Too Many Books

After my e-reader interest waned, I went back to buying real books. But gradually my stack of unread books began to grow and I would put them away, hiding the pile that resembled clutter. The problem with hiding them is then I’d forget about them. And then I’d buy more books, which would exacerbate my problem. There had to be a better way.

Recently, I recommended the book The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver to a friend. After raving about it, I realized that while I had read it about 15 years ago, I couldn’t remember much about it. All I could recall was that it was an amazing tour-de-force. I wanted to read it again.

But I no longer had the book. After one move or another, I had donated it to the Goodwill. And by-golly, I was not going to buy that book again. And then it hit me. I didn’t need to. I could check it out from the library.

A few days later, I was the proud owner of a new library card.

Libraries Have Changed

Things have really changed in the last 30 years since I was a library regular! There are fewer books on bookshelves and one can easily browse the entire collection online. I even checked out my books at a self-service kiosk. It seemed like the computers were the most popular thing to do at the library – every single one of them was being used. I also learned a lot about what was going on around town from the bulletin board in the entry.

On my first visit, I checked out two books. I had new books to read, for free! I liked having a due date. I felt motivated to read the books instead of adding them to my always-expanding pile of “to read” books. They wouldn’t clutter my bookshelves forever either.

I started reading one of them. After 50 pages or so, I wasn’t enjoying the book. No problem, it’s not like I bought the book or anything. I could just stop reading and return it to the library, which I did.

A few days later, my sister and I were talking about this book. She said that the first 50 pages were slow, but after that the it got good. What?! I didn’t know that! And the book is gone. I don’t have the e-book, nor is it in my hidden book pile.

Looks like I’ll be heading back to the library again soon. Maybe I’ll become a regular.