Love Letter to my Library

love letter with fountain pen
Andrys Stienstra, “Fountain Pen” (2014) via Pixabay

On this Valentine’s Day, I’d like to share about the torrid love affair I’m having — with my public library.

I love my library. I [heart] my library. I less than 3 [ ❤ ] my library.

There are many reasons for this.

It may have started when I was an infant, and mom would take me to the library (Turns out, she loves libraries, too. Is it genetic?)

Books make me happy. Being around books makes me calm. Libraries are full of books. Lots and lots and lots of books. Which you can borrow and read for FREE!

I remember learning to use the electronic catalog when it first came out in the early ’90s (we called it the computer card catalog) and became quite using the “s=”, “t=”, “a=” search methodology. I especially remember when I learned to use a modem in the mid ’90’s and could “call up” the library catalog. Not only could I look for things to read in the comfort of my house, I could access the online periodicals database to read book reviews and science fiction short stories!

I have had the same library card for over 20 years. I have memorized the number. It would make me very sad if I ever had to learn another.

I love the process involved with library books. It used to be just browsing or looking up another author whose work I’ve enjoyed. Now, it includes titles I’ve heard about on NPR, careful cultivation of my Goodreads lists, shout-outs from the blogosphere and recommendations from other bibliophiles.

Once I’ve researched the location of my quarry on the computer catalog, and written down the call number, I love searching through the stacks to find the author listing (for fiction) or the Dewey Decimals (for non-fiction) to retrieve my book. It’s a treasure hunt. I love the weight of a stack of books accumulating in my arms.

I love checking out books and emailing myself an electronic receipt on the self-check kiosk. I even like it when there’s a librarian who checks out my books for me.

But my favorite part, is bringing my books home. After removing them from their tote bag, I usually stack them (quite carelessly, in fact) in piles on my bedroom floor. Sometimes I read them right away. Sometimes they sit around for multiple rounds of renewals. Some I don’t even read at all. (gasp!) Sometimes I even check out more library books to add to the piles before I have even made a dent in previous check-outs.

My mom looks at me in astonishment, “How can you possibly need to have 30 library books checked out at once?” I realize there is no good logical answer for it. “I just like them,” I reply.

At first, I found it weird that I liked browsing and checking out books sometimes even more than reading them. However, my favorite hoarding experts Randy O. Frost & Gail Steketee (in Stuff which I also checked out from the library) have offered some insight into this behavior. In their study of hoarders, they noted the similarities shared by collectors (of whatever) who find pleasure in “the hunt” for their collected objects. In the hunt, collectors achieve a ‘flow state’ – “a mental state in which a person is so absorbed in the activity that he or she is unaware of his or her surroundings.”

In this way, I am definitely a hoarder of library books. Unlike the hoarders profiled in Stuff, it is a self-correcting problem because I also like the process of returning books to the library, so I can get new ones. There is a definite feeling of euphoria upon finding a library book, and then again, upon bringing the book home, and then finally reading (maybe) the book.

However, sometimes even I stray. I have been known to purchase e-books from Amazon, especially indie titles that my library is unlikely to purchase or be able to acquire through interlibrary loan. Yet my stinging conscience is salved a little when I can use the Amazon Smile program to donate a tiny portion of my purchase back to the my local library foundation.

There are bumps in all relationships, my library romance is no exception. I just found out that starting in March, my favorite library branch is closing for renovations, for the rest of the year! I will still be able to pick up books on hold and return books, but the stacks will be closed to me. A feeling of panic suffused my chest when I heard the news – what will I do? Where will I find a new happy place? (Dad was similarly distraught when I told him the news. Maybe it is genetic…)

But I calmed down when I realized that even though the place may be shifting, my library relationship is still intact. And maybe, the change will impel me to get out and make some new human friends who love the library as much as I do.


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