Stuff I’m Into: The Library

Can we take a moment? To just appreciate that these exist, and are amazing?

I know the library websites and bulletin boards are all like “There’s so much more to us than books!” and yeah, sure there is, but like even just the books part

It’s been observed that “Millennials” tend toward a ‘sharing’ or ‘access’ style of economy more than their parents. They don’t necessarily want to own stuff (what with all the storage, wasted space/time, responsibility of upkeep, etc.), they just want access to it, to be able to use it when they want. This does appeal to me personally a great deal. There are some things that are special and I want to own, but there are a lot of other things that I would just as happily use communally and let someone else have them if I’m not. (It also makes sense in a world where digital streaming is so much easier than it had been, but this ‘access rather than ownership’ idea is also kind of the difference between, say, having access to streaming media and downloading a purchase you get to keep forever.)

Living in a smaller house and finally having to clear my stuff out of my parents’ house (I still chuckle when I hear it in my mind. “You’re thirty. It’s time to get your shit out of my house.” – said my parent very lovingly!) means I don’t have as much room to store useless junk. I still have several boxes of this type of junk, but I’ve had to scale it way back because of spatial constraints. Some things that are useless to me could actually provide tangible use to someone else. Stuff I would hold on to just for sentimental value may have more breadth of value to someone else.

This is how Scott persuades me to get rid of things. “By holding on to this, you may actually be preventing someone else from benefiting from it…” As soon as my “save this” behavior is recast as wasteful, I’m down to let go.

I just renewed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban from the library for the second time. I’ve got a long lending period at my library, but even still, I am only reading one chapter a week to keep pace with the Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast, so I’m going to have to figure something out when I get to my renewal limit.

I did own this book once. I might have bought this particular one that summer that everything was awful and I used it like a walking stick to gimp my way forward. I used to own a bunch of HPs, one of which I had bought in Europe (I read HP 7 in Italy). I took good care of them (old friend may remember what a miserly book-keeper I was — “don’t hold it open too far or the paperback spine will crack!”). You would think that these I might have saved. And I did for a long time, and would have for longer if not for a simple mistake. I had set two stacks of books on the bookshelf in my parents’ house, one for donation and the other to be picked up later by me.

The differentiation of stacks was not noted by my parental agent, and I discovered this when my mother told me how happy the librarians were to be getting copies of HP books. I was upset, but not as much or as long as I might have expected I would be. They are just things, and honestly, if the library was that happy to get them, then a bunch of kids are probably benefiting from them. A little less stuff for me to haul around through my life. I can still remember and appreciate what it was like to stay up too late some weeknight in Italy, freaking out and unable to discuss it with anyone because everyone else was sensibly asleep, writing an email to Dale to enthuse about how right his predictions had been. I can still appreciate how the series helped me escape my sad summer of thesis research. I can do this without the physical objects in my possession.

I checked out this copy of HP 3 from the Nashville library, and there’s a part near the  front where several pages come out as a whole chunk and I have to keep tucking them back in. I find this endearing — this book has been so well loved, better loved than most single-owner books could have been. It might have been convenient to have a copy of the book and not have to worry about renewing or ordering another copy, but… whatever.

Libraries. Free entertainment. I can get audiobooks straight to my phone, digital books straight to my kindle, and physical books sent to the little library location near my house.  That small library alone is “tiny” and doesn’t have a huge selection (again, this depends on perspective), but through the entire city system, and also Interlibrary Loan, you can get your hands on a pretty broad variety of things.

I used to feel really weird about placing things on hold, but now I use it all the time. I think I previously felt like, if I wanted something and it was at another library location, it wasn’t that big a deal for me to drive there to get it, find it myself on the shelf, and check it out, and I didn’t need to bother the librarians to do all that. And sometimes, if I want something today, I still might, but otherwise, shit, they will put all your hold items near the front door with your name on them waiting to be picked up by you. It’s amazing. I also used to think I should just ‘wait’ in general when something was checked out, but if you put it on hold, they will just automatically get it for you when it’s available.

They also have movies, both DVD and digital. And music. And all of this is for free, which is a salient factor if you are between situations as I officially am starting this week (more on this later).

I know this is all basic. I just wanted to remind you how great libraries are. If you have books, especially popular ones, and especially if you haven’t picked them up in years, you might want to consider donation. And if you haven’t read in a while, summer is coming, which means possible vacations, which means you may want to browse the online catalog.

If you have never tried OverDrive, I do recommend it (for audiobooks and other digital content).

What do you love about your library? When was the last time you went? Or, do you have a collection that you could never give up? What books are too precious to donate?


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