Why Libraries Should Long Be Utilized

library week

The town library saved me from my childhood. There were three things that stole my heart growing up and a few that broke it into pieces. The saving graces of my youth included:

  • Libraries
  • Roller skating
  • Dogs

A love affair with the three began in my formidable years and two out of the three are still main staples in my life. Roller skating is the occasional friend but not a bestie as it once was. Books, however, are quite the different story, pun intended.

It is this week, in this moment, then that Fidose of Reality celebrates the Big Book of Dogs, Encyclopedia Brown, Judy Blume, and all the other combinations of 26 letters across millions of words in thousands of books that crossed our lives and embedded themselves into our soul.

library week

According to the American Library Association, National Library Week was first sponsored in 1958, and is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. Libraries come in a variety of sizes and “shapes:” School, public, academic, and special types.

The Big Book of Dogs, incidentally, is the book I discovered that helped ignite my lifelong love affair with dogs. I so very much wish I could find that book, but I know the library had it. The library at the top of my street that I would bike to and check out books; the library that held magic and far away places and a safe haven for a little girl with a big imagination; a library that acted as a refuge from loud voices and condescending family members.

book

The bike I rode with the white and purple-trimmed basket took me to the top of the street, across a busy roadway, and to the safe haven of rows of books. I felt at home, and books still have very comforting feeling to me. I’ve yet to fall in love with e-books, despite the dusty e-reader and tablet that sit idle by my desk as I type this.

I prefer pen to keyboard when I want to get truly inspired. I long for the days of writing a “book report.” I relish in the fact that libraries still exist today.

Raise a hand if you feel the warm fuzzies when you think of a book from your youth.

Nod in agreement if you’ve ever checked a book out of the library and love that machine that ran your library card through with the “due date.”

Smile if a librarian ever asked you “are you really going to read all these books before they are due?”

childhood photo
Me and my brother – I was in third grade and so I was heavily involved with books.

If you have kids of the human variety, it’s not too late to encourage them to discover the library without an e-reader and sans a tablet electronic device.

A little bit of trivia: The world’s largest library is the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. in terms of the miles of shelf space and sheer number of books. According to their website, there are 838 miles and more than 37 million books. Talk about a little girl’s dream come true.

library
Here’s the library that I called my home away from home.

You can get a whole in-depth take on what the future of libraries looks like here. As for me, I will take my love affair with a room full of books to my grave and carry it in my heart until that time comes.

dog cat

I’m not alone in this love affair, and fellow bibliophile, Val Hughes, shares her love affair with libraries as an adult as a guest author here:

How the Library Saved My Life—As An Adult

The library saved my life. It’s true . . .literarily.

The first time a library saved my life was when I was in my early twenties.

My partner and I had been living off the grid in a log cabin on 400 acres in Eastern Washington. We’d gone to the Okanogan Valley to pick apples and we stayed to work on an orchard. We had no money, we knew no one, we were outsiders . . . until we made friends and I got a library card. I visited that little library often and, after a while, the librarian asked me to read at the children’s story hour. I was no longer an outsider!

Val Hughes
Smudge and Val; Photo by Chris Wooley

The next time a library saved my life was when we left our little orchard community and never returned. I found myself on a plane to Seattle. I had friends there and made more soon, but when I split from my partner of five years (my first long-term relationship), I really was on my own. I remember many days coming home from work with only one thing to look forward to—something to read from the library branch close to my bus stop. There was really nothing else.

My life rolled on and I acquired a second job and a third, a cat, a cheap TV, and a $45 car. I moved back to Spokane, opened a business, married, divorced, married again, got my first dog. In time, I was up to four dogs, two cats, a car, a house, a business. Then I lost four dogs, two cats, and a husband in very quick order (the husband didn’t die, he left) and found out my mother had dementia.

That was the most recent time the library saved my life. Maybe the last? Time will tell.

The library was one place I could go that didn’t cost me money, where I could get something I really wanted and really needed, at no cost, without feeling as if I was taking something I didn’t deserve. Without being questioned, without being judged, without feeling I was being given charity.

black and white photo
Val and her sister Evelyn in their youth.

It was a place where I could feel safe and get something to read free!

I still visit the library at least once a week. I can check online for new materials and request what interests me. With an online app, I keep track of the books I’ve consumed. For three years I’ve totaled 100 books on the app’s reading challenge. This year, my goal is 125 and I’m a third of the way there. Almost every one of those books—in my case, mostly audiobooks—I borrowed from the library.

No library, no sanity, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want to live without reading!

About Val Hughes: Val Hughes has been training dogs and their people in the Spokane area since 1980. In 1990, she started her own business, The Family Dog, which offered dog owner counseling and training classes in three locations around the area. Val’s golden retriever Jack, certified as a Delta Pet Partner, was one of the first two dogs in the pilot program for pet-assisted therapy visits at local hospitals. Val trained hearing dogs for five years through Pacific Northwest Hearing Dogs. Her own dogs have appeared in print, TV, and billboard advertising, in two movies, and in many local stage productions for Spokane Children’s Theatre, Spokane Civic Theatre, Spokane Falls Community College, and Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre. Her dog Teasel appeared last year as Chowsie in Gypsy at Spokane Civic Theatre. As editor of the professional journal of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, Inc., Val won three Maxwell Awards from the Dog Writers Association Of America. Val writes a weekly blog for pet owners, Pet Tips & Tricks, on the MyFoxSpokane website.

Do you have a love affair with libraries? Has a library affected your life? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

Comments

  1. I love this post! I absolutely have an ongoing love affair with libraries that started at a very young age. I hope libraries last forever.

  2. I like Libraries .. if more people from this generation went to Libraries and spent less time on Instagram, the world would be a better place

  3. I love visiting the library. They have so many great resources other than just books. Things that lots of people don’t know about.

  4. I love visiting the library. I love the smell of books when I walk in, and being able to browse the shelves and stumble on something unexpected. I hope libraries never go away!

  5. My family and I really enjoy visits to the library! Speaking of, I should probably go back soon.

  6. What a delightful post! I definitely share the feeling. As a kid I devoured books, & spent countless hours at the library. I loved learning new things and escaping into a good book, leaving everything behind for just a little while. To this day not only do I utilize the library constantly but my Husky and I participate in children’s reading programs at several libraries on two coasts! To help a child discover the joy of reading is a great reward! I hope libraries never go away, they’re a huge asset to communities offering all kinds of programs along with volumes of books, music, and movies.

  7. Thank you so much for this post, Carol! My mom was director of my hometown’s public library from when I was born until I graduated high school, so I literally grew up and spent most of my time in a library. I am now library director in a town 7 minutes away, so it’s like coming full circle 🙂 People don’t really read anymore, particularly kids. And it breaks my heart. I look at records from 40 years ago, and the library stayed incredibly busy – now, I’m lucky if I get 20 patrons in a day. (It’s a town with a population of 200.) But I suppose that makes it all the more rewarding when I can recommend a book to someone with good results, or a child comes in to read instead of mess around on the iPad. It’s good to know, also, that there’s another paper-and-ink book lover out there – E-readers just aren’t the same!

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