The library is greatly misunderstood in the 21st century.
“Why don’t you just buy the book so you can keep it?”
This may sound judgmental, but I just don’t love every book I read enough to want to provide it with a permanent home. I wasn’t always this way, though. I’v bought books by the armload from plenty of national chains only to read one or two from the expensive stack at my bedside. It wasn’t until graduating from college and having to move many boxes of books that the whole thing began to seem ridiculous. In the years since, I’ve meticulously pruned my collection to include beloved classics and anything that made me feel as if I’d lost a good friend when I got to the last page.
At the library, books are important. Books are important to me. I can’t read just anything. I rarely choose titles from anyone’s bestseller list. The only book bandwagon I ever jumped on was Harry Potter’s. If I don’t feel some connection to the story or the characters or the themes I feel let down. I tend to choose books like I choose friends and I am most certainly not ever going to be friends with the Twilight series or anything by Danielle Steel.
Going to the library is an exciting event. Sometimes I go and browse the shelves and run my finger along the crinkly spines. Other times I have something on the “requests” shelf and there is nothing better than knowing something that you have been waiting for has finally arrived. I love the smell of library books, the sound of the book jacket. If it turns out I just can’t get through the pages, I simply return it with no detriment to my wallet. If I love it, I just may buy it from the independent bookstore I love so that I can keep it forever to reread.
The library is about preserving a legacy of knowledge for generations. Barnes and Noble is about trying to sell you cheap paperbacks that can’t even be qualified as anything remotely resembling literature. The library preserves the simple pleasure of reading for reading’s sake as opposed to reading because Oprah endorsed it, because it’s 20% off, or because you think it will change your life.
The best part about the library is the people. Instead of being rung up by some hipster whose actual knowledge of literature is most likely eclipsed by their preference for skinny jeans, I get excited little librarian comments like “Oh you’ll just love that!” It’s always nice to be able to take home something that’s been a good friend to someone else.