Why I've gone back to the library

Browsing library books

I hadn’t been to the library in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading, but in my mind the library was for the old and the poor, or for those who aren’t tech-savvy. These days if you want something and you have the money, you can get it almost immediately. After making an effort to read dozens of books from the library in the last couple of years, I feel like my viewpoint was completely wrong.

I’m in a unique position because I work for a company that sells eBooks. Prior to my library experiment, the majority of the books I read were on my tablet. I could get them immediately and for free, as a perk of my employment. This perk however came with some downsides. I was already looking at screens for most of the day; the computer at work or home, the TV or my phone. When I started to read physical books again, it felt like a totally different experience. There is no chance of a notification distracting you or for you to be tempted to look up something on the web that quickly devolves into falling down a rabbit hole of internet browsing.

After I visited the library for the first time in a decade there were some things that I’d forgotten about – the quiet, ambience, and to my surprise they had kept up with technology! Not only was the selection better than I expected, it was easy to request books that weren’t available. Within a couple of days, the book that you’d requested would arrive from a nearby library and if no other library had it, the library would often purchase it for you. If you wanted to use technology, they had eBooks, audio books and a free subscription to Kanopy, a streaming service that has excellent content.

However, the things that I enjoy the most about my library membership were a bit unexpected. I thought it would be onerous having to constantly visit the library to check out and return books, but soon I began looking forward to it. There’s something gratifying when you receive an email that a very popular book on your reservation list is waiting for you. Reading books in a given timeframe has forced me to read a lot more. There were times when I didn’t finish a book in 3 weeks, particularly if several of my reservations arrived at once, but with a single tap on your phone, loans were renewed for another 3 weeks.

Of course, there’s the cost aspect of it too. I aim to read approximately 20 books per year, and at $15-$30 each, it can add up quite quickly. There’s also less chance that you’ll force yourself through a book that you’re not really enjoying.

If you have young children, I think the library is one of the best places you can visit. Since children’s books are so short, my boy and I would go through 3 or 4 per week. It made sense to get out 10 at once, find the favourites and easily be able to return the duds. It’s also a great place to be on stinking hot summer days or during the cold of winter.

I tend to have a fairly large number of books in my “to read” list and I’ll plug a few of them into the library catalogue when I’m close to finishing a book. There are many good recommendation sites out there, for instance Read this twice has books that celebrities recommend, or if you’re into tech or entrepreneurship, there are some good recommendations on Hacker News Books. So, instead of watching that second Netflix episode at night, try picking up a book instead.

You can see what I’ve been reading on Goodreads.

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