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?