I am the proud owner of a brand-spanking-new library card. That’s right. A library card. For use at the local public library. The place where you can check out books. For free. You know, those objects with numerous pages of paper filled with words and binded together. That you can flip through. Manually.
Surely you remember books.
Anyway, I picked up a card because, while I love adding books to my collection (yes, I still purchase books from time to time), sometimes I just want to read a book without spending money. And, because, long ago I lived in libraries. Almost quite literally.
I grew up sans television. My brothers and I were encouraged to find other ways to entertain ourselves and grow our brains. To our parents’ relief, we gravitated toward books. Big ones. Skinny ones. Long ones. Short ones. Funny ones. Serious ones. Dull ones. Books. Books. Books.
We could not get enough of books. Every week, we made a trip to the library. Sometimes to two or three different libraries. Our local library was small, and it did not take us long to canvass its entire children’s and teen literature sections. Oftentimes, we’d check out the same books over and over again. Just for fun. Because we liked them so much the first time. And second time. Seriously, I cannot even tell you the number of times I rented Clara Barton: Civil War Nurse or Maniac Magee.
Our a-bit-less-local local library was huge by comparison with aisle upon aisle of books. On Thursday mornings in the summer, we spent hours poring through our respective sections, always walking away with a mountain of books. All bagged. Of course, this was back during the days of “everyone gets free plastic bags.” Oh, the good ol’ days.
We’d read after school (if our homework was done) during the school year and on the weekends and all summer long. I can remember many a time being asked repeatedly to complete a chore and responding with one of the following exclamations:
“I’m almost done with this chapter!”
“One minute, I’m almost done!”
“I’m coming in a minute!”
“I’m REALLY coming in a minute!”
“I promise I’m REALLY coming in a minute!”
OK, in truth, those statements were made by me when asked why I had not yet finished dusting the ENTIRE house from top to bottom. Somehow answering with, “BECAUSE I HATE DUSTING!” just didn’t seem right.
When our grade school introduced the Book It! program, my brothers and I increased our frenzied reading pace to earn countless free Personal Pan Pizza from Pizza Hut. And Right to Read Week was also a hit because, well, who didn’t like a free period devoted to reading a book of our choice?
We read our way through middle school and high school, too. At least, I read. My brothers? Maybe not quite as much. College, however, was different. I did still frequent libraries, but only to study or find references for research papers. It was much harder to read for pleasure when my days and evenings were spent reading pre-selected material. Let me rephrase that with “sometimes nonenjoyable pre-selected material.” And lots and lots of it. Graduate school was even worse. Reading began to equal a giant pain.
So, my reading shifted gears. I turned to magazines and newspapers and online news sites for pleasure-reading. I read them religiously. And that’s the only material I continued to read for several years after college.
I can’t even remember when exactly it happened, but I did eventually pick up a book again. Just to read it. For fun. And, I remembered why I came to love books in the first place. Who doesn’t enjoy a good story? Sure, I’ll always adore magazines (I collected National Geographic forever), but books are where the developed stories are. Where the full-blown plots are. Where the characters are.
Which is why I found myself at the local library today. Applying for a library card. So that I can, again, get all that enjoyment for free.
And, while I am no longer rewarded with Personal Pan Pizzas for my reading conquests, I do sometimes find myself delaying a task so that I can get to the end of a chapter. Or a book. Because, after all, I should probably return it to the library as soon as possible so that someone else can borrow it.
For free. Because that’s what libraries are for.