9 Reasons I Have A Chronic Library Habit




My name is Laura. I have a chronic library habit.


Sure, I have other, less socially acceptable habits. We can talk about those another day. Right now I’m eager to turn other people into equally obsessed library fanatics.


I’ve already been successful with my kids. The stacks of books my family brings home may be pushing up the state average. Now that my kids are older they are surprised most of their peers never bother with libraries, in person or online. And I’m surprised to see how many of my friends don’t use libraries either. Some haven’t been since high school. For those of you who don’t bliss out over libraries, or worse, dismiss libraries as dim places with a distinctive old book smell, here are the nine best reasons to get hooked on libraries.


1. Magic water.


As a small child I was convinced there was something magical about the drinking fountain water at our local library. It tasted better than water anywhere else. I wondered if it had to do with the enviable proximity to all those books.


When I had kids I  rhapsodized about the water at libraries. And they’ve always been able to taste the difference.


Even though I realize there’s no factual basis for this belief, library water still seems more deeply refreshing than ordinary water. Try it and see for yourself.


2. Awe.


A much more vital magic is evident in libraries around the world.


It has to do with a sense of history, of freely shared knowledge, and awe-inspiring architecture. When traveling I make sure to hang out in libraries. Most recently I found time to soak up the atmosphere of one of NYC’s awesome libraries.


3. Librarians.


These folks are amazing. As  Erica Firment writes on Librarian Avengers,


“People become librarians because they know too much. Their knowledge extends beyond mere categories. They cannot be confined to disciplines. Librarians are all-knowing and all-seeing. They bring order to chaos. They bring wisdom and culture to the masses. They preserve every aspect of human knowledge. Librarians rule. And they will kick the crap out of anyone who says otherwise.”


Librarian stereotypes aren’t relevant or cute. Don’t believe me? Check out The Bellydancing LibrarianThe Steampunk Librarian, and Miss Information. Still think of them as chronic shsser’s? Then read Your Librarian Hates You.



4. Library materials are free!


Our taxes pay for them whether you use them or not. Only suckers don’t get in there to scoop up the books, DVD’s, downloads, recorded books, electronic reader books, programs, classes, and more. My kids and I have strolled out after a library visit with well over 100 items checked out on a card or two.


Today’s libraries offer much more than well worn books and a chaotic Story Hour. Click over to your library’s website. You’ll find an amazing array of offerings well beyond the newest bestsellers. There are probably programs to get you started in fencing or felting or fraternizing with fellow foodies, just this week alone.



5. Ordering.


OMG, I love ordering materials. Our library systems in my area are linked, so holdings can be sent from libraries in quite a few counties right to my own little branch. I can read a review of a book before it’s released, then go to the library site to pre-order it. I order special book group offerings for our teen book group (up to 20 of the same book) that come organized by some saintly librarian with supplemental materials. I order obscure specialty books that were published back in the 1920’s and earlier.


We’ve homeschooled on the cheap thanks to our library system and the wonders of ordering materials. No way could I afford to expose my kids to the depth of information and range of experiences they’ve gained via libraries.


6. Online renewal.


I don’t know about your library system, but mine permits renewals up to five times. Online. That gives me several months to adore most materials. Those months are necessary. I use books in my work, take them with me lest I have a dull moment, and leave them around for my kids to pick up when their eyeballs are unoccupied.


Sometimes I find books so precious that when they are finally and irrevocably due I end up buying a copy. But let me point out, I only buy books after proving their worth to myself. No regrettable book purchases here. Yay savings.


7. Library privileges.


I’ve been in a steady human relationship for a loooong time, but I’m a non-monogamous library user. Judging by the number of library cards in my name, I’m a pushover for the sweet allure of any library’s New Acquisitions section.


It’s hard to unearn library privileges. Late fees are usually minimal and in many systems there are no late fees for seniors, teachers, and homeschoolers. Even when my account is labeled “delinquent” (often) I’m still able to check out and reserve materials. I don’t mind a few dollars here and there to make up for my late return crimes. Totally worth it. Unlike most human relationships, my library is always buying me something new, forgiving me when I atone, and consistently planning unexpected ways to lure me.


8. Research databases.


Library systems subscribe to pricey online database services that none of us could afford on our own. I access most of them from my home computer, simply logging in with my library card number. These databases include genealogy, academic research, news archives, digital images, health, and much more. I relied almost entirely on the resources of my award-winning Medina County Library for the research necessary to write my book.


9. That smell.


Libraries don’t smell like someone’s musty basement. The odor is something entirely different. I’ll tell you what it reminds me of, right after I tell you about how much I appreciate Russian language library materials.


For five summers we hosted a little girl from Belarus  through the Children of Chernobyl project. And every summer before she arrived I called the librarian in charge of the foreign language collection at the Cleveland Public Library. We talked over Tatiana’s age and interests, then every few weeks through her three month stay this librarian sent to our rural library branch a wonderful selection of Russian materials including Harry Potter books, children’s magazines, recorded children’s books, popular music, and much more. When my kids curled up with books or went to bed listening to CD’s, Tanya was able to do so as well. I hoped it eased the hunger she must have felt to hear her own language. Beyond that, it built connections between us almost immediately.


The first day she arrived, exhausted from long flights and weak from some medical problems, there was no way we could really communicate. It became obvious that our efforts to learn Russian had been laughable and as an eight-year-old her grasp of English was limited to “yes” and “thank you.” Then I remembered those blessed library materials. In a few minutes all of us were dancing to the Russian version of “Hokey Pokey” and laughing before collapsing in a heap on the couch together to giggle as we paged through a Russian/English picture book, challenging each other to pronounce the words. That stack of Russian library materials smelled, more than anything, like home. To me, every library smells like my place. Bet they smell like your place too.





About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer, editor, conflict resolution educator, and marginally useful farm wench. She is the author of Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything. She lives with her family on Bit of Earth Farm. Check out life on the farm at http://bitofearthfarm.wordpress.com/ and keep up with Laura’s relentless optimism at http://lauragraceweldon.com/blog-2/


13 thoughts on “9 Reasons I Have A Chronic Library Habit”

  1. I too adore the library. I was sad that last week the librarian let me know that they will be lowering the limit off checked out books to 100 down from 250. So sad! Now I will have to get a card for my son and keep track of two cards. I also don’t mind the occasional late fees that benefit the library, in fact, I believe I have one right now! I would have to spend thousands of dollars a year on books if it weren’t for the library. The best thing ever is the ability to order obscure literature. We have discovered so many amazing books this way. We had friends over last week who are also passionate about books and wanted to know how I had come across so many non traditional library books. We take out so many books each week that I finally bought a small shopping cart for library trips. Inevitably I would be trying to juggle 50-60 books when the toddler would need to use the restroom. This had made my life so much easier. When we get home I strategically place the books around the house to be discovered and when they are read they are put back in the cart to be returned. And best of all now every one can pick out as many books as they want and are not limited to how many we can carry!

  2. Here, here! We love our library and visit often. I don’t know what we would do without it. As unschoolers – it is our main source of educational materials. It’s bittersweet that on the odd occasion (rarely really) if one of my daughters needs a harsh consequence, the first thing I do is gather up her library books and take them away. Works like magic!

  3. The water is indeed better and magical as well! Thanks from a long-time children’s librarian for you support of our best institutions that support literacy and reading – our nation’s libraries!

  4. (A tip ‘o the hat to Marge L-W for the link from FB.) Enjoyed your column — and, yes, every public library has “magic water”! I encourage you to extend your support from patronage to advocacy –local, state, and federal — to keep libraries open so that all families can have the opportunity to read, learn, and connect!

  5. Ahh, the “magic” library water. I am a mother of four, grandmother of 12, and was a children’s librarian for 26 years. There is not a toddler born who does not know about this, and clamors for it multiple times per visit. And they are adamant about getting it themselves as soon as they can perch on a rolling stool. It must be a genetic thing passed on by those mothers-to-be who used libraries for relaxation and thirst quenching before the little ones were born.

  6. Your library addiction sounds like ours. We hit the limit on one card and move right to the next. With four kids, we’ve toted home a huge number of books. Entirely worth it. Each visit is like a holiday.

  7. Love the list, especially the water. The first thing my kids do every time we go to the library is rush to the drinking fountains.

  8. Love this article! We, too, are heavy library users, visit nine libraries regularly (at least two visits a week), adore inter-library loan, have most new library books in our hands first because we suggest them to librarians and pre-order them, and have at least one-hundred library books in our house at any given time. Then there are the DVDs, the audio CDs and other materials. One library lets us check out board games! So, so cool! In our world, public libraries and NPR are right up there as the holy grail of public services (yes, the funding issue with NPR is another post). AND, you’ve inspired me to take my children to visit more old, beautiful libraries. I wish we had more access to foreign-language materials. My kids have run through all that is available here many times over.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *