If you're like me, getting My First Library Card was one of the highlights of your childhood. It was especially a *yahoo!* moment for me because the county library system would not *allow* small children to have a library card until they were of *reading age*, which in the 1960s was first grade. I waited so impatiently to get to first grade, palliated only by the fact that my kindergarten classroom was full of books I hadn't yet read and plowed through with zest. I was the sole child in my kindergarten who could actually read before going to school...that fact got me in a year ahead of schedule as my fifth birthday was slightly past the deadline and I had to give a command performance in reading what would now be termed a *chapter book* to Father Joe to get him to override Sister Mary Priscilla's *nay*...and that knowledge brought privilege. Whenever Sister Mary Pauline had to step out of the room (which teachers would be crucified for doing nowadays), I got to sit up front in the teacher chair and entertain the ignorant masses with Story Time.
But soon enough I read through the kindergarten collection and then over summer vacation had to be content with re- reading the books I already had. You know what I'm talking about if you're a true bibliophile...it just doesn't seem right not to have anything *new* awaiting you. I even read Mother's issues of Ladies' Home Journal and McCall's (that one was a bonus because after Mother perused it I could carefully scissor out the Betsy McCall cutouts for the month and play paper dolls going to school and listening to me the teacher read to them with a new classmate). So on the first day of first grade I skipped home hurriedly in my red Mary Janes and poked Mother to drive me the twelve blocks to the library to get My First Library Card.
There was none of that keytag stuff then. It was a square of manila cardboad with rounded corners and the librarian rolled it into her typewriter and typed your name onto it, then handed it over for you to sign in your best handwriting. I practically wet myself because of what seemed to be the immense size of the children's section. Bypassing the baby picture books entirely (with Mother, who alas is not a reader, bored, following behind me and telling me to hurry up because she needed to get home and start supper so it would be ready when Pops got home from work), I trailed my fingertips lovingly across the miles of plastic-covered spines, discovering the Betsy-Tacy chronicles, the Betsy and Billy series, the Ginnie and Geneva books, Beezus and Ramona, The Saturdays kids, Noel Streatfield's different Shoes, the classics like Five Little Peppers, Heidi, Louisa May Alcott, the Bobbsey Twins, Caddie Woodlawn, Little House. I staggered up to the checkout desk carrying my weight in books and was laughed at by the librarian, because all children were allowed to take out at one time were four books.
Four! Like that's going to last me! And that's probably why I was permitted to go to the library myself as soon as I got the training wheels off my bike. Mother was not amused at trekking to the library every Wednesday to exchange those four paltry books for four new ones, so Pops screwed on a basket and off I went. And I've been doing it ever since. I love to read. There are currently eleven books in my TBR (*to be read*) pile next to the sofa. My tastes have evolved into ponderous tomes of history, biography, education, historical fiction, a few best-selling fictional authors like Lee Child, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz, but I still have my old classics on a bottom shelf (I'd have more, but Mother was a ruthless purger :-().
The library nearest to me is enormous. I was jumping up and down the first time I walked through its doors and got a glimpse of its vast contents as I stood at the circulation desk getting My First Keytag Library Card. They print receipts now instead of stamping cards and placing them in pockets on the back cover of the books, which I think is a moneymaking brainfart to collect overdue fines, because who keeps track of receipts? They've also reduced the borrowing period from 28 days to 21 days. The good thing is, as an adult, I could take out as many books as I wanted. The bad thing is, my eyes were sometimes bigger than that 21-day period. But another good thing is, I can go online, type in those keytag numbers, and renew the books for another 21 days without getting out of my jammies.
Sometimes enormous is not all it's cracked up to be. The thought of physically going to that giant library can be exhausting because books, believe it or not, are no longer the primary focus of a library. This one happens to be built in the architectural style reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright. It has a small courtyard area with a cascading rock wall fountain and its sprawling exterior is faced with colored fieldstone. With a pneumatic wheeze of automatic doors you enter its vestibule, which is usually filled with displays of local projects done by community and children's groups (it's right next door to one of the elementary schools and the teachers often walk the students over to access the separate Children's Library). Opposite the initial arm of the huge curving U-shaped circulation desk is an area of used books and media they're getting rid of and selling for a song. Across from the longest part of the circulation desk is the public restrooms and some conference rooms. Next to its final side is the entrance to the Children's Library and a loooong banq of computers. Then opposite that are several aisles' worth of movies and video games that can be taken out for 7 days (and you'd best get those back on time, as they're not renewable and the fine is a dollar a day!).
Yeah, so, um, where are the actual books? I've just hiked a football field in from the parking lot and still haven't seen any books! If you go around the computer table and past the shelves that hold teacher periodicals outside the Children's Library, you can find the *new books* area there. I usually have at least four or five by the time I get done perusing that and quickly learned to bring a massive tote bag because it's tough to balance a stack of books against your bosom when you've got that far to walk. And I haven't even hit regular fiction or non-fiction yet.
There's a seating area behind the media section next to the Reference Desk. Fiction's behind that. And they literally have an aisle for each letter of the alphabet (except for X-Y-Z). Keep going toward the back of the building to hit the non-fiction section. History is on the very back wall. I'm pooped by the time I get there and wish they had a back door where I could get straight to it, because by then my tote bag is dragging behind me like a tired old dog. With the exception of college libraries and the main library downtown a county over, this is the biggest library I've ever seen.
In my old library where I used to live (which was a tenth of the size of this one), I was literally just starting at A and taking out half a shelf of random fiction at a time because it seemed like I'd read everything in it. Never going to happen with this behemoth!
I often run into one of the older ladies from my apartment building there. Her equally bulging tote bag isn't dragging behind her but propped up on her walker, but she's in there at least once a month nonetheless. Avid readers never die! But next time I see her, I'm going to tell her what I just discovered poking around on the library's website:
If you are unable to get to the Library due to long-term illness or injury, we will bring the books to you! You may request specific authors or topics or have the librarian choose for you. Books may be kept up to 3 months. Materials made available to homebound patrons are large and regular print books, VHS tapes and books on cassette or CD subject to availability.
Delivery and pick up are provided by members of the Friends of the Library group.
Call the reference desk or send us an e-mail for more information.
How great is this? When you're old and broken or sick, you don't have to get out of your jammies and drag yourself through that monstrously big library just to get your TBR fix. Just cruise through the website and make a list of what you want (you can search for books by author, title, or ISBN, no such thing as thumbing through the card catalog anymore), then phone it in, and it comes to your door like a pizza! Movies, music, books on tape, large print for the bifocal impaired group...anything you want, delivered right to your door and picked up and more brought in when you're done with them.
I had no idea libraries did this and I bet a lot of other people didn't know, either. So call or check out the website for your local branch, and see if you or someone you know who has difficulty getting around can take advantage of a great community outreach program like this one.
They even offer computer classes, have a book club for the more mobile crowd, and give away prizes for their Summer Reading Program for Adults:
On-going programs include small business workshops offered by SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), computer courses from BTOP and AARP’s Safe Driving education courses.
The Library also offers a monthly adult Book Club, which discusses a wide variety of titles and is open to all interested readers.
You can join our Summer Reading Program!!! For every book you read, review, and log, you will be entered to win A KINDLE TOUCH or a $100 gift card to Target or Amazon.com. There will be a drawing every week, so you have 7 chances to win!
The Grand Prize is A KINDLE FIRE!
Another thing I noticed poking around was this:
Welcome to OverDrive's Device Resource Center. Titles from OverDrive-powered sites can be enjoyed at your computer plus a wide variety of devices.
•Kindle Books (US libraries only)
•Adobe® EPUB eBooks
•Adobe PDF eBooks
•Open EPUB eBooks
•Open PDF eBooks
OverDrive Media Console™ is available for these popular devices, allowing you to download titles directly to your device.
•iPhone® / iPad® / iPod touch®
•Windows Phone 7
This is just as good as home delivery of hardcovers if you have one of these devices. I will admit I am a stubborn holdout when it comes to getting a Kindle because, well, nothing compares to the feel and the scent of a real book, and I own far too many books to even consider re-purchasing them (if still *in print*) and loading them onto an electronic device and trusting that it won't ever demise and make me lose them all. (Yes, I'm paranoid like that...I have backups for my backups.)
But, you know, some books just aren't *keepers*. There are some books that I have read via the library that I've loved loved loved, sought and bought, and continued buying new releases from the author. But most of them are books I probably won't want to re-read, or books I've used for research and no longer need. So now that I've found out those kind of books can be *borrowed* from the library, I just may change my mind about that whole Kindle thing. This is perfect if you're going to be reading books you won't want to store. And there's absolutely no chance of incurring those pesky overdue fines because, whether you're done or not, it just *poofs* off your device when the due date arrives.
I'm certainly behind the times with my seven bookcases full, and maybe I'm out of the library loop for not knowing about these additional, non-traditional services they offer. But just in case I'm not the only voracious reader who didn't know about it, this Public Service Announcement's for you.
Don't just get under the covers...get between the covers and READ! September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month, so poke a kid and introduce them to what fun falling into a book can be. Having fun isn't hard with a library card, and with all the new programs being introduced, it just got a whole lot easier!