Why I Haven’t Bought A Book In Months: A Love Letter to My Public Library
Last year I went through a lot of chances that made buying and storing new books a challenge. I didn’t want to make this kind of spending hiatus, but I had no choice. Within the last 2 years, I have moved cross-country twice and most of my books are in a storage unit 3000 miles away. When we finally settled back in Los Angeles I couldn’t be sure that I would have the space to house my old books or any new ones I might have collected. But I run a book blog, so I couldn’t stop reading! That made me turn to a trusted resource I had been overlooking for years.
national library week
Ah yes, the library. I LOVE libraries.
I’m no stranger to the resource haven that is the public library system. I regularly went as a child, I went to god schools that had great libraries, I was a library staff member in college under the work-study program, and I worked as an elementary school librarian before leaving the work force in 2011. But bookstores and Amazon were like shiny new toys when it came to getting my next reads.
Thank goodness that’s worn off. I rediscovered my love for libraries last year and I have been visiting my local branch almost every week.
This post is a celebration of what it means to love the library, especially during the second week of April with is Nation Library Week. During NLW, the American Library Association invites us to show our love and support for our local library systems. That means if you haven’t found a reason to visit your local library, this week is a wonderful time to start.
My Love of Public Libraries
Los Angeles County has multiple library systems (Los Angeles Public Library, Burbank System, Glendale System, and The County of Los Angeles System) and there are more just outside of the county that I could drive to. Can you have too many cards? Is there such a thing as too much access?
Whatever the answer, this post will be focused on the Los Angeles Public Library System since it’s the one I use the most. It also serves the largest number of patrons of any public library system in the nation. The Central Library is located in Downtown Los Angeles and there are 72 other branches spread out across LA County.
If you can’t tell by now, I’m a bit of a library fanatic. I even have a post I wrote about the library hacks I use almost daily.
After you check that out (go ahead, I’ll wait), here are 4 reasons why my heart beats for LAPL:
The Library Staff are Amazing
A shout out to the staff at the Pacoima branch of the LAPL! We have been visiting with them for almost 2 years and they have always helped us love any book or resource problem you can think of. As a homeschool mom using the library for many of our lessons, my local library staff has been able to recommend books for any occasion. And I feel comfortable walking into any of the branches knowing we’ll be pointed in the right direction.
La has so much diversity
Searching bookstores for Black stories started to get tedious. But reading with LAPL has made finding books very easy. Almost every book I’ve needed is located in one of the many branches (but usually at Central). This includes special collections and rare books that most people have no interest in ready anymore. The best part is, I don’t have to go to different parts of town looking for one book.
I’m only 2 weeks away from almost any book
The library system will mail the books to your preferred branch. That means I don’t have to wait too long for holds to arrive and I have 2 weeks to pick them up. New releases can be a little harder to get but many of the larger branches now have 7-day checkouts for popular new titles. You have to check out and check-in at those specific locations but I was able to read books like Hunger and My Sister Is A Serial Killer without the long hold and very close to the library buying them.
Everything is connected
I can do all of this from my computer. Checking my account and making holds can all be done at home. And when the library email suggests books I might like, I just add them to my list that is connected to my account. You can also rate books you’ve read and found out information on local branches. All you need to be a super library fan just like me.
Library Best Practices
I’ve found that library newbies are a lot like gym newbies; they are intimidated by the prospect of looking completely lost and helpless. Or worse, they don’t know of all the amazing perks they can use from the local branch. If you haven’t found your library groove, I’d love to offer some tips for getting the most out of your library card.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need
The library staff is incredibly nice. And they know that learning the ins and outs of a library can time. No one knows everything- not even the librarians or clerks. But everyone there is committed to helping the patrons find what they need, which includes books, services, or everyday answers. And if you can’t find the book you're looking for, ask if they can order it. All it takes is for someone to need it.
Stay Up to Date on Library Resources
Many libraries are more than the building they occupy. Do you know what kinds of extras come with your local library card? Does your library system have local events you can attend? Do they provide tutoring or other education services for children and teens? Large cities like Los Angeles have programs like Common Reads and monthly book clubs. A New York Public Library card now allows you to visit museums around the city (LA has a similar program). Digital services like Hoopla and Kanopy connect to your card and allow you to watch movies or check out audiobooks. Children have access to websites like ABC Mouse and Star Reading programs. There are way too many to talk about here but I urge you to look into what your local library is offering.
Make it a habit
Going once a week means that I never miss a hold and I don’t have to schedule when I will return my checkouts. I’ve placed library time on our calendars and my whole family looks forward to it.
But that’s Los Angeles!
I know I have a great library system to brag about, but not everyone does. If you don’t live in a system like LA, you could:
Check out Goodwill and other thrift stores for cheap titles
Branch out to other systems that may have reciprocity with your town
Find or open a Little Free Library in your neighborhood
Don’t forget to ask your library to carry books or offer services you want
I wanted this post to empower you to visit your local library and celebrate the good libraries do for the communities. Take some selfies, check out some books, and sign up for a local event. It’s the best thanks you can give yourself and your library.
What are some of the ways your “library”? Leave a comment with your favorite library resource.