Rekindling an Old Romance

Libraries are interesting places. Where else can you walk up to a counter and have the person working there hand you a bag full of stuff that doesn’t belong to you, and let you take it home for free, no questions asked? Sure, you can’t keep the loot forever, but what’s the worst-case scenario? You return it a few days late and they hit you with a 37-cent fine. The whole thing sounds too good to be true.

I mean, I suppose robbing a bank is similar, but that requires all sorts of planning and equipment. A ski mask, a gun, a threatening note, and a getaway car at the very minimum. All you need at the library is a card. And there’s a zero percent chance you’ll have to contend with an exploding dye pack. Unless you’ve really pissed off the librarian.

Sorry if this sounds like a revelation. I knew libraries existed, of course. I’d loved them as a kid, taking refuge there on many a lazy summer afternoon or chilly winter’s eve. Libraries instilled in me a love of reading at an early age. They’re where I discovered and devoured favorite reads, like the Hardy Boys mysteries. Encyclopedia Brown, boy detective. The Lemonade Trick. Sterling North’s Rascal. How to Eat Fried Worms.

Honestly, libraries probably have a lot to do with the fact that I’m a writer today. The words I read thrilled me so much, I wanted to create my own!

I enjoyed them so much, I even took library science as a high school elective. I knew the Dewey Decimal System like the back of my hand. 562? Fossil invertebrates, bitches! But over the years, libraries had sort of slipped out of my consciousness. It had been a long time since I’d been to one, and longer still since I checked anything out. Other than the hot girl browsing the nonfiction section.

I’m here all night, folks.

All kidding aside–because I love my wife (and don’t want her to go all Lorena Bobbitt on me)–it had been awhile. Shortly after moving to Rapid City, I took to spending my lunch hours at the local library, because it was two blocks from where I worked and afforded me a quiet place to read. Only I always brought along my own reading material. I never even bothered getting a library card, because 90% of the time I read on my Kindle anyway. I check out books virtually using the Libby app (and that’s tied to an account I had two states ago, ha…don’t tell the Fort Vancouver Library District I moved in 2018, please and thank you).

The problem with the Rapid City library was, it served as a beacon for the homeless and/or the inebriated. It was noisy and crowded and it felt like a fight might break out at any moment. I gave up my noon visits after a few weeks, deciding I was better off just going home.

So, when we moved to Fort Atkinson, I had no intention of frequenting the library. It took me months to even set foot inside, and that was only because I happened to be walking right by the place on my way to somewhere else and figured, what the hell? But I was so enamored with the place, I left an hour later with a library card and a bag full of books, magazines, and a DVD. And I went back again this afternoon for more.

I mean, look at this place….

It’s so damn cozy and charming, I want to spend the whole day there. It doesn’t have a fireplace–it’s got three! And art displays and cozy nooks and crannies. Wandering the aisles, pulling out books at random, catching that familiar vanilla-like scent of musty old pages, I felt a wave of nostalgia wash over me.

I also started craving a cupcake.

In any case, just like that, my appreciation for libraries was rekindled. It’s as if I’d discovered the passion of a long-forgotten love affair was still simmering.

It helps that the Dwight Foster Public Library had nary a sketchy person inside. It was quiet and peaceful and I never once feared I’d be caught up in a knife fight between two rival drunken factions.

I’ve been participating in the Goodreads annual Reading Challenges for years, but my goals are always modest. Last year’s was 18, and I finished with 19. That was actually only the second time I’ve ever hit my goal, and it was the highest goal I’ve ever set. I have friends who read 50, 100, 150 books a year. I don’t know how they manage that!

Maybe they don’t nod off in bed within five minutes of cracking open a book every night.

In any case, my 2023 goal is 20 books. I even hesitated at that, but I figured if I could knock out 19 while also dealing with an interstate move, a house sale, and a new job, I might just have a fighting shot at one more this year.

That was before I rediscovered the library. Hell, six days into the new year, and my tally is already 1.8 books read. At this rate, I might reach my goal by July.

How often do you visit the library? Do you prefer physical books or e-readers? What’s your 2023 reading goal? You do read, right?

71 thoughts on “Rekindling an Old Romance

  1. Maybe you inherited your love of reading from your mom. I am sure I read at least 50 books and maybe a lot more per year.
    I am always going to the library(no kindle for me)I like to actually have a physical book in my hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to go to our library twice a week for 30 plus years then the homeless , drug addicted , and criminals moved in . They treat it like a shelter. They sit in the chairs and pass out ; also have “accidents “ They took a gorgeous multimillion dollar building and trashed it. Fights are common. Men go in the women’s bathroom. The building smells and is dirty . The outside is the same . A fountain was dismantled . The planters hold trash. The homeless were peeing and pooping on the sidewalks so now there are porta – potties on the sides of the building. The librarians have PTSD . Only the toughest stayed. The security officer ( one a shift ) tries to just avoid confrontation . A “ Do Gooder “ woman pulls up once a day in an old van and hands out hygiene supplies etc.. The squatters rush the van. The parking garage is too dangerous to go into if you are alone (day or night) If you complain you are slammed for having no compassion for the homeless. I use Libby and hoopla and now avoid the place like the plague . I miss the old days when I was excited to go there and real books were a treat .

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So funny… I loved my Library as a kid but never joined the one in NJ (where I lived for 20 years) and have lived here in MD for 5 — and only joined last month. Of course I have NOT yet been in the building and have only borrowed Kindle reads through the Libby app also… still weird how parallel this feels.

    Also I used to be able to whip through dozens of books a month but now that’s rare.

    50? 100? Are they counting Dr Seuss books? (Wait, that sounds like a fun idea too!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 562? Fossil invertebrates–For reals? Do you remember that, or did you look it up/make it up?
    “I also started craving a cupcake.” Sounds like something I would say. I wouldn’t have pegged the scent of pages to be vanilla-y, though, so good on you for that one.
    Three fireplaces is impressive. ONE is impressive! Who feeds those flames? And do they worry someone might go crazy and start chucking books in? I would worry.
    We go to the library probably every other week. My kids are voracious readers. I don’t set goals. I just read when I read.
    The end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I looked 562 up. It was purely a random example, ha. But it really is fossil invertebrates. I also Googled “what do old book pages smell like” or something to that effect and learned about vanilla. Once I read that, it kinda made sense…but I can’t say I ever had that association myself. It was more a scent I couldn’t quite place.

      Look at all the research I do for you guys!

      Those are gas fireplaces, so there’s no need to feed the flames. In fact, I don’t even think you can open the glass – at least not very easily – so there’s no worry about an impromptu book burning party!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. If you started with the random number and wound up with fossil invertebrates, that was the jackpot number of total random topics. Bingo! Yes, I appreciate the research.

        Relieved about the fireplaces. Do they for real put out heat, or does the glass block it and it’s more for ambiance? That would be a shame. Also, why do I care so much? I don’t know, but inquiring minds and all that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Actually, I think my random number was 574 at first, but that one is unclassified. Fossil invertebrates was the runner-up.

        Gas fireplaces don’t put out a ton of heat unless you put your hand on the glass, ha. This is why I prefer wood-burning!


  5. I LOVE the library! We actually have three libraries less than three miles from our home. All three of them are fairly old, though, and nowhere near as beautiful as yours.

    I’m not sure why libraries can become habitats for the unhoused, but I imagine a) they feel safe there, and b) it’s a public building so they can’t discriminate. It’s a sad situation which is more of a reflection on our society as a whole than on our precious libraries.

    I’ve never had a reading goal but, between my book club and just the books I read on my own, I imagine it’s about 20 – 25 per year. Those who read gobs more amaze me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have three libraries within a three-mile radius? Everybody there must really LOVE reading! As far as homeless people congregating there, it’s a heckuva lot warmer than being outside in the wintertime, so I certainly get that.


  6. I have wonderful memories of the local library from my childhood. It was attached to a park with a playground so that was a bonus. I am currently in the county library system as my town doesn’t have a city library but is part of the county system. There are actually plans for a new and relocated library in the future. Right now I stick with my Libby app to read but the new location will be within nice walking distance so who knows what I might be encouraged to physically check out. Your library is lovely. I would park myself near one of those fireplaces for hours. I also think people don’t generally realize just how much libraries offer- not just books. Libraries should be a mainstay in every community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My library even offers CD checkouts, though I’m not sure how many people take advantage of that. I don’t even have a way to play them currently (though it’s great that that’s an option). Totally agree that they should absolutely be a mainstay!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I remember CD checkout options- My youngest (the CO woman now) had a part time job at the local library through high school. She got to experience tons of different music genres with the ability to check out anything she wanted. It shows today- she has very wide-ranging and eclectic taste in music.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. How often do you visit the library?
    When I was a kid in Scottsdale, AZ, I walked there with my Mom once a week. One of our favorite things to do.
    In L.A. my first job was walking distance from the Central Library, Downtown!! Thrill of a lifetime! Dream come true! I forget if it has 6 floors or 8 floors of books.
    My local library is the Amelia Earhart branch in Toluca Lake and it is adorable and 1920s Spanish with tile and fireplaces.
    In Arkansas it’s a hassle to drive to the libraries and their selection is very limited (one has maybe 10 shelve and the other 20. Total. Shelves.) so I just download books via Kindle.

    Do you prefer physical books or e-readers?
    I prefer physical books but in Arkansas with its limitations I’m grateful for ereaders.

    What’s your 2023 reading goal?
    I always set my Goodreads goal for 50. I think I hit 54 last year. I’m amazed by people who read 100, 200, even 300+ books!!!!

    Your library looks very nice and inviting. Love the fireplace!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love libraries but haven’t been to mine for a while so I don’t know what it’s like. It was OK last time I was there although not a beautiful place like yours. I order my books, usually e-books, on-line so I don’t need to visit the library much.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the Dewey Decimal System and old-fashioned card catalogues. Some of my best memories of college were in the library, just moseying through a card catalogue to randomly see what was out there in the stacks.

    As for my reading habits today, I prefer physical books to e-readers. I read fewer books than I once did because much of my reading time is reading blogs, ‘ya know?

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I love this! And that library. My love of reading was instilled early by two avid reading parents. We didn’t have a television for years when I was growing up, my father called it the idiot box. And while I haven’t stepped foot in a library in years… our local is just slightly larger than my living room and to be honest I probably own more books…. I do adore them. I’m a reading fanatic and literally just signed up for Goodreads yesterday. I marked my goal at 75 though I’m sure I’ll blow by that. I’m already at 4, whipping through an archeological detective series. I can’t stand Kindles though. I’m a tactile reader and have to have a physical book. Jeff Bezos loves me.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I told you I’m a voracious reader. I’m also trying to stay out of my husband’s way while he’s working on the cellar project. 😉
        I have no idea how to friend you on Goodreads… do tell.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I loved reading about your sketchy history of relationships with libraries (sketchy was my word of 2022, hee hee). I’m kindle-only (connected to multiple libraries across the country), having given away my favorite hard-copies when I hit the road. My big discovery has been librarians, though. They are rare and fascinating people.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not surprised you’re Kindle-only given your nomadic lifestyle. Ain’t nobody got room for a bookcase on the open road!

      I don’t know any librarians, but two friends actually do work in libraries. I’ve always thought that would be a great job.


  12. That library is gorgeous! The library my daughter works at isn’t as fancy, but does have an atrium which makes it very sunny when we do have sun. There are a couple amazing libraries in the area like Lakewood and Hudson. Fun just to walk around. And of course downtown Cleveland where people take their wedding photos on the marble winding staircases.

    I’ve been visiting the library weekly since I was a little kid. I read about 80 books a year, but I’m not employed,so that helps. I tend to read while eating my breakfast and lunch, which includes coffee and tea, so it stretches out. Only physical books for me. I don’t do goals, period.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I Googled the Cleveland Public Library after reading your comment. Wow, that’s gorgeous! I can see why people clamor there for photos. There’s a building with tons of history.

      I try to read during my lunch, too. Last summer, on my solo trip to Madison, I took my Kindle to a bar and killed a couple of hours reading there. That was both efficient and tasty!


  13. I actually get all my fiction at the library. Nonfiction? Sometimes the library and sometimes I buy it. I don’t read slowly, but it takes me a long time to finish books usually because I also read blogs, do crosswords, do jigsaw puzzles, play with the pets, etc. I’m like you – I see people, particularly other bloggers – putting out lists of the zillion books they read and I’m like, “What!?” Do they not have jobs? Do they not need to feed themselves? Clean? Run errands? AND they have time to write detailed reviews about each book on some of these blogs. Is there a new way to get more hours in a day that I don’t know about?
    My library eliminated late fees with the pandemic and hasn’t brought them back. Yes!! I’ve been known to go over my 3-renewals-max limit from time to time and now there ain’t nothin’ they can do about it! Suckas! 🙂
    My library was remodeled several years ago and though it’s still new and shiny, they did it all in white so it’s super cold feeling. I want me some fireplaces!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think most libraries have eliminated late fees nowadays. Not sure about ours, but I do know I can renew books up to three times. If I can’t finish a novel in 12 weeks, they should take away my library card on general principle!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I used to utilize the Allentown Public Library growing up. Back then in the 70’s and 80’s it was an inviting experience. I always took out books & records (later Cd’s and DVDs) and loved looking up old newspapers on the Microfilm/Fiche Readers. The job I have had for 24 years as a digital archivist still scans film & Fiche and the Microfilm Department Films and uses the
    readers. I stopped using the library when they got internet hubs because they started to attract sketchy people. I used it again in my 30’s when I filed Chapter 11. My wife occasionally uses our neighboring city Bethlehem Public Library as well. When I was going to Art school in Philly I was always at the free library. But your library looks incredibly beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh it’s dying for sure. Microfilms top client WAS the Library of Congress who as of the last two years has strictly gone digital


  15. I love libraries. I’ve even run libraries. But some libraries are definitely cozier than others. Looks like you found a good one.

    I prefer holding physical books, but during COVID all my local libraries went online and so did I, checking out books mostly on Kindle. Most of their new purchases are e-books, so I haven’t actually set foot in a library in quite some time. I suppose I can think about heading back in. I wonder if they are still acquiring books?

    The greatest card to have, though, is a Los Angeles County library card. You can check out everything virtually, even read newspaper and magazine subscriptions. It’s amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. That is indeed a beautiful library! I would be happy to browse and hang out there. I have become a huge fan of audiobooks over the years and I read aloud to my husband each night from the iPad. But the feel of actual books is still appealing – and I am committed to reading, not listening to, all of the books in my read-all-the-NYT-best-sellers-on-my-birthday-since-1958 challenge.
    Spelling it out that way makes it seem crazy. Fortunately I made no promises on how long it will take. Of course the longer I take, the more books I have to read!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve only finished Lolita, the best seller the day I was born. I still have to write my thoughts on it – which are mixed, to say the least! Next up is Advise and Consent.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I only just started listening to podcasts – History Hit has some good ones – a couple of my favorites are Patented – history of inventions and Betwixt the Sheets – the history of sex, scandal and society.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I avoided it for a while because I was afraid it would be something like salacious tittle tattle – but the host is a serious historian who is funny and thoughtful and sensitive to the seriousness of whatever is being discussed – be it shoes, corsets, female pirates, indecent exposure or serial killers and mysogyny.


  17. Since the pandemic, I visit the library a couple times a week ~ so often that most of the librarians know me on sight and pull up my account before I even hand them my card.

    Love your library, especially the fireplace!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. My mother is responsible for my love of reading. I spent countless hours in various libraries over the course of my childhood and always participated in the summer reading program. However, I haven’t set foot in a library in ages. If our local library looked like the one in your post, I’d never leave! Much to my surprise, I have converted completely to ebooks over the past few years, I’ve always got my phone, so reading an ebook on my Kindle app just means one less thing to carry around. I’m planning a post on reading goals for next week, but as a “sneak peek”, my 2023 reading goal (once again, in my Kindle app) is 125 books.


  19. I love this so much. Your library looks like a cozy haven! I’ve not stepped into a library in at least 15 years. I know, that sounds like a crime.
    I have no doubt that you are going to meet your goal this year and then some!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. My reading goal is the same as every year – 52. I’m falling behind more than outstripping it these days, but I’m OK with that. I decided to join our local library when we moved 3 years ago. Then discovered that I had to pay to park in the car park (it’s shared with other facilities on our local high street) and that idea went out of the window.

    However, 2 things may change that decision. 1) I added how much I spend on kindle, and 2) there’s a season ticket pass which is absurdly cheap which I can use when I run my other chores. Now I just have to remember what bits of ID they need to set up my card…

    But it’s not a patch on your library, I mean, three fireplaces! Jammy so-and-so, that’s what you area 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let’s see, if I do the math here….hang on, lemme break out a pencil and paper…nope, gonna need the calculator for this one…

      …carry the seven…

      …that works out to one book a week. Impressive!

      And now I feel very fortunate that my library is within walking distance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Full disclosure, mine is also technically just about within reasonable walking distance. But… there’s the not so small matter of the horribly steep hill on the way back, when I’d be carrying heavy books which puts me off.


  21. I grew up visiting the library and it wasn’t until I made the switch to ebooks in 08 or 09 that I stopped.
    I have not ever had to deal w a library building under siege like you described. I’m thankful for that.


  22. Here’s what I just told my friends about my history and love of libraries.
    As I had in both Oak Ridge and Torrance, I immediately joined two local libraries and have enjoyed some of the offerings at each, both here in Portage and at the most convenient of the half dozen or so locations of the Kalamazoo Public Library. I joined the Kalamazoo Genealogical Society which has its own writing group, and have gone to a few meetings of a more generalized writing group that was recently revived to be held in person at the Portage District Library. So far, I’ve made one really good friend through these groups who happens to be both a very well-versed genealogist as well as a self-published author. My daughters may or may not consider what I finally produce someday from my writing and genealogy passions and pursuits, though I’d like to think they will, and maybe even get some benefit from this work I am looking forward to finally get to. Even if they don’t, I know I want to do this for my own benefit and relief and expression.

    Liked by 1 person

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