It’s National Library Week. Have you been to the library lately?
After my son grew up and moved out of the Mommy zone, I stopped visiting our public libraries. For over ten years, if I wanted to read a book or needed one for my home business, I’d head to a bookstore and buy it. Or I would depend on a friend’s personal library and hope to find gold.
It was only a few years ago, soon after I restarted my writing life, that I came to my senses and I applied for a new library card.
Only a few years ago. It makes me crazy when I think about it.
If you’re ignoring this public treasure, as I was, take note of these five great reasons for a writer to regain the library habit.
1) Save Money
I live in one of the most expensive cities in the country — Santa Barbara — so I’m always looking for ways to save a buck. The library is one of my budget helpers. Now, instead of spending money at a bookstore or on Amazon.com, I head to the library. I usually come out with more books than I went in to find — always a good thing.
And have you ever purchased a book and were sorry you did so after reading a few pages? If you had checked it out from the library, the only thing you would have spent was your time.
I learned of author Ivan Doig through his obituary (he died last week) and several people recommended his books. I went to my library’s website, reserved one of his novels, and picked it up several days later, along with two others I’ve wanted to read:
All for free.
2) Discover New Authors
If you don’t have a budgetary inspiration to step through the doors, as I did, you might not feel the need to use the library. But think about this: While you’re walking down the aisle, your head cocked to the side as you search for your favorite author, what if you came upon an intriguing title? You’d have the opportunity to leaf through it and give it a try. For free.
That’s not an experience you could have at, say, Amazon; the list of “Customers who bought this item also bought” books are usually the same genre or author. In the fiction aisles of the library, the only thing the authors will have in common is the first letter of their last names.
3) Psst! There’s More
Besides finding print books at your local library, you’ll most likely also find:
- Downloadable audio and e-books, and audio books
- Internet connection
- Laptops for rent
- Research material (on site and online)
- Computer classes
- Book Club packets
My library has all of those plus classical music groups, writer workshops, children’s story time, speakers, and art exhibits featured on a regular basis.
4) The Sounds of Silence
Cell phones were not a part of everyday life back when I was a regular library patron with my son. So, when mine rang during my first visit in years, I wanted to hide. The next time I visited, I placed my phone on “vibrate” before I got out of the car.
Even with the tap-tapping on the computer keyboards and the occasional laughter and questions of children, there is a nice quietness to the library. It feels like being home on a chore-less day, except there is no doorbell ringing, no temptation to hop up and do the laundry, and no limit to the books on my shelves.
5) Reading Improves Your Writing
Writers hear that, read that, and say that truth. And what better place to be than the library, which promotes reading as the most wonderful activity. The people who work there are aching to give you all the reading material you could want or ever need. They want to help you make reading a habit.
During one visit, I asked about the checkout limit.
“You can take 100 books if you’d like.” She smiled at me. I thought she was kidding. She wasn’t.
Notice how the library staff cater to their visitors. You can return your books by mail, in bins, or inside. You can renew over the phone, via the website, or in person.
If the book you want is at another branch — my library’s system spans two counties — they’ll track it down and reserve it for you.
There is no excuse, then, for a writer with a library in town to ever be without an inspiring novel or an informative book. A good writer is a good reader.
So, if you’re behaving like I once was, ignoring your wonderful public library, then find time to rediscover the pearl that it is. Use the library as another tool to enhance your writing life.
What do you like best about your public library?
(Updated. This article was first published on DarlaWrites.com)