On Libraries

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.

For a quick summary: Ariel Bisset posted a video discussing why libraries are important, but will remain unused by herself and her friend. Justtkissmyfrog responded by commenting on the discussion that followed, including commentary on privilege and what her ideal library is. #ReadingMyLibrary is an unrelated but not irrelevant challenge hosted to encourage people to borrow books from the library in support of a book buying ban.

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 tend to used two libraries: the university one and the local one, but for wholly different reasons.

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

I don’t really want to reiterate points that both Ariel and justkissmyfrog have made, but I do want to emphasize a couple of them.

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

Not everyone can afford to. Books are massively expensive in some places, and even in others, where they’re considerably cheaper, there are still many people who can’t afford to shell out that money.

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).

Owning Books

Owning books is 100 percent a privilege. There have been times in history when it was illegal to own (specific) books, and places where that might still be the case. I’m not an expert on it, and I don’t have the focus to do elaborate research on it right now, so please forgive me for vagueness.

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.

Thanks for reading!
What are your thoughts on libraries?
Do you use yours? Why or why not?
What are your thoughts on book buying?

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18 thoughts on “On Libraries

  1. I love this post! I agree with you 100%. I love my local libraries and try to use them as much as I can, but the truth is I don’t get around to visiting them as often as I perhaps should. For me it’s just a laziness issue–especially when you consider Overdrive. One thing the #ReadingMyLibrary Challenge did for me, however, was it showed me how many books the library has that AREN’T on Overdrive. So I will be making an effort to stop by the library more often. I really like buying and owning books but for the last few years I’ve placed myself on a ban just because of college and the frequency with which I had to move (about once a year). Recently I’ve started buying books again and it’s been glorious! I know exactly what you mean about loaning books though. I’d much rather loan out my clothes than my books. Some people don’t seem to treat books with enough respect in my opinion!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve noticed that with Overdrive, too–the selection is an odd one, but I am finding plenty of things I do want to read. I’ve been trying to buy fewer books primarily because I own enough to keep me busy for a considerable amount of time–it’s just difficult to resist exciting new releases sometimes. I have noticed that I’ve been buying more books since I’ve started watching booktube and blogging, which I also want to address in a post.

      The respect people pay books and the variation in that respect is fascinating to me–I know not everyone has books as a priority, but I find it interesting that they’re still willing to be careless.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was debating whether to do a blog on this myself, you’ve inspired me to give it a shot in the future! But in the mean time here are my immediate thoughts, which are apparently an essay anyway!

    I use my university library for textbooks a lot, but using the local library for books – not really. I used to, when I was younger and I think for children libraries are essential parts of a community. Kids books are so expensive for what they are and kids develop so quickly, books are forgotten and I really do believe that a library is essential. It was a library that made me love reading, I was like Matilda as a child (but with loving parents who took me!) and we used to walk down to the library on a Saturday morning then walk to my grandparents house (the library was half way between) and I loved it. When that library closed I stopped using the library because, at the time, I was in a wheelchair and getting to the nearest library was a bus in to the city and then a walk up a hill from whichever direction you come at it from!

    Norwich library is magnificent. The eastern BBC is based there, the selection of books is enormous but… I just don’t get that thrill from borrowing books that I do when buying them. The initial walking in to a bookshop and a library feeling is the same. But going to the library, when I borrow a book (and I do sometimes, just not all that often) I just feel filled with sorrow in that I’m going to have to take it back whereas when I take a book from Waterstones’ I feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. It is just consumerism, I know that and I think I’m going to cut down on book buying and increase my book borrowing because I need to reduce my spending!

    Thanks for posting this, I’m going to do a blog on this myself soon I think!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My mom never really took my to the library, but when I was in school, a few friends of mine and I would walk to the library down the street after school, and it was a lot of fun. We’d have laughing fits on the way over, and then end up reading, sometimes for hours on end. The only issue was finding a way home!

      Consumerism (and materialism) does influence the issue–we’re taught that buying things and owning things is the way to happiness, and we’re conditioned in such a way that, for many, it’s true. We’re fortunate that libraries exist exactly because they allow us to continue our hobbies but at the same time reduce our spending.

      I really look forward to seeing your post on the subject!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great post! I’ve been thinking of doing a post on libraries later this summer. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to go to college where there is an excellent public library, but I know the one awaiting me at home is not great. And it is sad. And it is why I’ve personally been to the library so much this semester. To take advantage!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I almost always use my library. I’m not big on rereading, so I’ve always found it pointless to buy a book I’m not planning on reading again. That said, I also like to buy books sometimes especially when I know that the library doesn’t have it, and I’m too anxious to wait for a long distance book transfer. I’m also more likely to buy nonfiction books, mostly because I’m hideously slow at reading those.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s really interesting–I really enjoy rereading, personally, even though I’m losing time I could be spending reading something new. For me, there’s just a magic to discovering the new quirks–and sometimes a solace to revisiting old favorites.

      I have to admit, I haven’t really considered how my buying habits differ between fiction and nonfiction books. I will say that the most nonfiction I purchase for myself tends to be for school or for writing, and I generally have to own those (because I see no reason to spend 100 dollars to rent one). I don’t usually read a lot of nonfiction for fun, which is something I intend to change.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I try to visit my library at least twice a month. I love reading (obviously), but I don’t always want to buy all the books I want to read. Checking out books from the library is an easy way to make sure you don’t waste money on books that end up disappointing. I do love owning books though and just glancing at my shelves, most of the books I own I’ve given positive ratings to. I happen to love rereading and in many ways, I find rereading more pleasurable and this is not so easy if you don’t own the books. Overall, I think the books I read are pretty much spit down the middle between library reads and books I own. I like this balance because I don’t feel like I’m spending too much on books and at the same time the amount of reading I do doesn’t suffer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rereading is one of the bigger reasons why I like owning books–I can take what I own off the shelf at a moment’s desire and flip through it to reread a section, but it’s not that easy with library books. Those take time and luck to acquire xD


  6. Great post! Speaking as a former children’s librarian, I believe libraries will always have a place in our society. I had to leave my job after 26 years because I became disabled, and I now am on a fixed income. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without my local library. I love owning books, but they’re so expensive, I really have to limit myself. Overdrive is wonderful, but it’s also limited in what it offers. Plus, I still love holding an actual book in my hands as I read.

    Liked by 1 person

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