This post has been inspired by the recently ended #ReadingMyLibrary Challenge (hosted by Caught Read Handed; April 1-30, 2015), the booktube video by Ariel Bisset, and the response video by justkissmyfrog. I apologize if this isn’t wholly coherent–it’s not even 9 am and I’ve been awake intermittently for about three hours, but I wanted to say things before I forgot there were things to say.
I want to do a series on book buying in general, and the atmosphere around it in the book blogosphere and the booktubing community, but this was more immediately relevant and got some thoughts churning.
Do I use my library?
I use the university one primarily for research, because it’s the most convenient place for me to look for scholarly articles and peer-reviewed books for papers I have to write. Occasionally, I check out books for pleasure reading–it is through the university that I read If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino, and where I checked out Faust, although I haven’t read it yet. The really useful thing about is that the university lets me check out books (not articles–those are for as long as I have the PDF) for a full semester, which means I’ve until May or December to read what I’ve checked out, and then I can continue renewing until someone else wants it or I’ve finished the book.
I use my local library far less often, to be perfectly honest, and primarily for one thing: audiobooks. Overdrive is amazing and wonderful, so I don’t tend to visit the library in person. This is in part because of travel inconvenience, and in part because I, like Ariel Bisset and her friend, really enjoy owning books.
Libraries are still Important
Libraries are places where people, regardless of income or social position, are able to read, often for free (I know in some place you have to pay a fee to keep your library card). They are places of storytelling and knowledge–quite incredible stores of them. In my personal opinion, everyone should have access to them. Some people don’t, for whatever reason–distance, time, local government–and to me, that’s a shame. TO me, there is a magic to stepping into a library and being allowed to walk out with a book that many people before me have loved or hated, but have read.
Privilege came up a lot in the discussion to the videos above, both in the comments and in justkissmyfrog’s video, and I think there’s some truth to it. But the response video also made a point that I happen to agree with: many people complain they can’t afford books, when all they need to do is shuffle around their purchases. Many more people legitimately can’t afford books, because buying a book may result in not eating, and that to me is why we need libraries. We want people to have access to those books even if they can’t pay for them. We want to encourage literacy–after all, pretty much everyone reading this probably loves books just as much as I do.
Spending Money on Books
On the one side, spending money on books is a good thing (if you’re able to do so). It’s good for the economy (especially if you, like me, live in a capitalist society). It supports the authors and publishing houses who produce them and encourages them to produce more.
On the other side, it’s not so much a need. To be perfectly honest, I could live without a book in the house. I would be depressed, and I wouldn’t really know what to do with my time sometimes, and life overall would decrease in quality for me (libraries are important!) but I don’t actually need books the way I need shelter and sustenance. We say it, and we may mean it, but I think everyone knows that we exaggerate a little bit, even if only to show how much we truly love books.
And besides, libraries do exist. I intend to use mine more, once I’ve gotten through all the books I do already own. Maybe this summer a book buying ban will actually work (after I spend my birthday gift cards).
I enjoy owning my own books, and I’m lucky that I’m capable of it. I’m lucky that I have the space and the income to purchase books without worrying about whether I’m going to have lunch in the morning.
I am, however, hesitant to loan books out to other people, for a variety of reasons. I may make a more in-depth post about this, but, generally speaking, I’m worried they won’t be returned or that they won’t be returned in decent condition. I have the privilege to have books and not share them. Maybe I’m not doing the “right” thing with that privilege, but, honestly, no one’s asked me if they can borrow a book I own because I know very few people who enjoy reading for fun (and have seen and are interested in the things on my shelves).
Owning things is a very possessive thing, isn’t it? My books, my shelves, mine. I think it reflects the importance we place on property, sometimes over social relationships (something that I don’t think is wholly healthy).
I don’t know.
I don’t think there’s a right answer here. I don’t know if an answer is needed. I do know that I want to support my library but, quite frankly, I don’t put as much effort and thought into it as I possibly could. I’m distracted by other things, and it reflects priorities I hope to shuffle around.
What are your thoughts on libraries?
Do you use yours? Why or why not?
What are your thoughts on book buying?