As a student about to start her master’s in library and information science, it probably won’t come as a surprise that I, you know, like libraries. Throughout high school and some of college I probably single-handedly kept my public library in business with my excessive fines. I know some people will go to the library, pick out a book or maybe two, then return it and find another. My library style has always been a bit more gluttonous: grab everything that looks interesting off the shelves. A week or two of fines adds up when you have fifteen to twenty overdue items. With the help of phone alarms and e-mail reminders, my on-time return rate has greatly improved in recent years.
The past few weeks have taken my appreciation of libraries on a very practical level. On one of my mom and sister’s last nights in Seattle, we watched Matilda together. While watching the disdain of Mr. Wormwood, Matilda’s father, for reading, libraries, and anything remotely intellectual, I was struck by an important but fleeting thought: I’m lucky to have been born into a family that loves the library as much as I do. One of my earliest memories is my mom doing up my hair for the Beach Day-themed story hour, and the highlight of middle school was the annual system-wide interlibrary “Battle of the Books” competition. So I suppose I’ve taken libraries and easy library-access for granted, just based on their continual presence in my own life.
As I mentioned last post, my apartment for August has no WiFi. I do have a smartphone, for which I’m grateful, but I have a limited data plan and too much impatience to use it for sending e-mails or messages longer than a sentence or two. It’s like trying to live on Ramen after years of dining hall meals – endurable, but hardly satiating. And my first month in Seattle has definitely given me experience in being creative with limited resources, both virtual and victual.
Coffee shops have been my first destination for Internet access. I have a found a few rare gems – coffeehouses with plentiful seating, power outlets, and low prices. But even the cheapest coffee shop still costs a few dollars, and I feel guilty for staying past the end of my tea. While I’m writing this, I’m actually at the coffee shop with the best drinks I’ve had in Seattle yet, but the worst WiFi. I’m lucky if I can get it to work for five minutes. At the moment, it’s not working at all.
At any rate, enter the library. The magical solution to all the world’s problems. Honestly, my dad had to suggest it to me when I explained my dilemma. At first I brushed off the suggestion, thinking that since I’m not yet able to get a library card (as I lack proof of address/Washington State ID), so I can only use their computers for thirty minutes at a time. Then it occurred to me that I could bring my laptop and use their WiFi for free. For as long as I wanted. So I’ve started spending lots of time at the library, either on my computer or reading books. Unfortunately, as I have no card, I can’t check things out. But I can use their Internet to look for jobs, housing, catch up on my Netflix. And just sit there and read books for free, so I don’t fall too terribly far behind on my 2013 GoodReads goal. The possibilities are endless.
IF YOU LOVE BOOKS AND LIBRARIES AND HAVEN’T EVER SEEN THE PAGEMASTER, YOU’VE BEEN MISSING OUT.
So this blog post has mainly been a combo testimonial and public service announcement. Don’t take your local libraries for granted. They’re a brilliant resource that do more than provide written entertainment for the masses. Next time your computer or WiFi or television breaks, if you want something new to read but it’s not in the budget – head to your library. Add them on Facebook, or check out their summer programming. And for those of you that already have, if you’re anything like me, I suggest you check your due dates!