How much do you value your public library?

When I planned today’s topic, the war had not begun in Ukraine. When I wrote the rough draft, the people of Ukraine were not fleeing for their lives. What has happened in the last month put the topic of public libraries in a whole new light.

Kyiv, Ukraine before mid-February 2022. Photo credit: hristo sahatchiev on unsplash.com

National Public Radio (NPR) here in the United States reported this week that libraries in Ukraine are doing what libraries do. Just as historic statues are being sand-bagged and stained-glass windows in 13th century churches are being covered in metal shields, the library staffs and volunteers are working around the clock to save what they can. Irreplaceable library items and collections are being taken to other countries for safe keeping.

According to this NPR report, https://www.npr.org/2022/03/09/1085220209/ukraine-libraries-bomb-shelters, libraries there are offering classes on making camouflage and are serving as bomb shelters. It’s what libraries do when push comes to shove.

I can’t image living in such a situation as the Ukrainians are dealing with. A couple of months ago, they were working, playing, going to school, eating in restaurants, going shopping, and enjoying the benefits of libraries. Today they are fighting for their very lives and the survival of their democracy.

Lviv, Ukraine. Photo credit: Nataliia Kvitovska on unsplash.com

My library experience

It’s odd how some months I read quite a few books and some months I read only one or two. I couldn’t afford to purchase most of those books, so how did a I manage to read so much?

I have two free public library systems to thank for all of them. Before you say, “Public libraries aren’t free; I pay for those libraries and their books with my tax dollars,” I agree; however, regardless of your tax status or how much or how little you pay in taxes, you can use those libraries.

Harrisburg Branch of Cabarrus County Public Library System

In the big scheme of things, only a few of your tax dollars are earmarked for public libraries. When you want or need to use the vast resources of your public library, it doesn’t cost you one cent.

I have access to the public library system in the county in which I live. A few years ago, my sister and I paid $100 to have lifetime household access to the library system in the adjacent county in which we used to live. It’s the best $100 we ever spent. Some adjacent counties have reciprocal agreements. You might want to check into that.

If you despair of paying local property tax, just pretend that all your tax dollars go to support the public libraries in your city or county. When local government funds get tight, the library system is usually the first service to bite the dust.

We saw library hours drastically cut during The Great Recession, and it took longer for operations to get back to normal than it did for the doors to be locked almost overnight.

In my county, at least, each branch manager can tell you how many people come through the doors and how many books are checked out every month. The director of the public library system uses those statistics every May and June to prove to the county commissioners how important the library system is. The more the commissioners know how much the system is being used, the harder it will be for them to cut library budgets.

A library card is free. All you need is proof of residency to get one. The public library has computers for the public to use, newspapers for you to read, books in various formats for you to check out, magazines for you to read on-site and sometimes to check out, and music CDs for you to borrow.

Most public library branches offer programs for adults and children and classes you can take. For instance, a few years ago I took a free course about Excel at my local library. The library is also a good, safe, public place for your child to meet with a tutor.

I borrow e-books, borrow books on CD, download books on MP3, borrow large print books, and regular print books. I borrow past issues of magazines. I borrow music CDs. I attend programs and get to hear authors speak (or did before the pandemic.) There are reference books I can use on site. I can do research and read microfilmed records in the local history/genealogy room.

If your hobby is genealogy, but you prefer not to pay for a subscription to a service such as Ancestry.com, inquire about it at your local public library. The one in my town has an Ancestry.com membership that’s free to the public. Through it, you can access all US Census records that have been released as public information.

If you aren’t taking advantage of your local public library, please remedy that immediately! While you’re there, see if it has a copy of my book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, on the shelf. If it doesn’t, ask if it can be added to the collection. Did you know you can do that? You can inquire in person at your local branch or you can probably submit a request through your library’s website. There are no guarantees, but such requests will be given consideration by the library system’s administrators.

Free public libraries help to “level the playing field.” We need more of that in this time when the gap between “the haves” and “the have nots” seems to be widening.

Where else can you get all that and more?

Never, never, never take public libraries for granted!

Since my last blog post

Do you ever have one of those weeks when you feel like you were busy but when Friday rolls around you can’t remember anything you accomplished? That sounds like me last Friday when I sat down to type this paragraph.

I didn’t work on my novel like I should have or planned to do, but I made a lot of progress on the old graveyard photography project I mentioned in last Monday’s blog post.

I’ve also been taking pictures of items my sister and I have that belonged to our parents or grandparents. We’re adding them to a photo album we’ve dedicated to such items in which we write the history of each item so future generations that end up with them will know where they came from. It will be up to future generations to decide what to keep and what to discard, but at least they’ll know why each item held importance to us.

I also did some cross-stitching and college basketball watching. After all, it was the first week of “March Madness” in the United States.

Until my next blog post

Keep checking out library books! I hope you have a good one to read this week.

Find time for a hobby.

Read newspapers, listen to NPR, and watch reputable news broadcasts on TV. Don’t shy away from watching the news because “it’s all bad” or you “don’t want to see that.” You owe it to yourself and your fellow residents of your country and this world to keep up with current events.

I cringe every time someone tells me they don’t watch the news – like someone did last week. Just because you choose not to be aware of what’s happening doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Janet

30 thoughts on “How much do you value your public library?

  1. You’ve made many excellent points, Janet. Thank you for emphasizing libraries and reading. Like many who came from humble beginnings, I lacked a mentor. In the library, I discovered a lifetime of advisors who had gone and done more than I could ever hope or imagine, and they shared their experiences in marvelous books. Libraries give us countless opportunities to receive and give through the written word.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience, Grant. I grew up in a rural area. My elementary school didn’t have a library. The closest library was 15 miles away and my mother didn’t drive. The bookmobile came once a month, but the library supplied it with only old books that I found unappealing. Fortunately, both my parents liked to read and set good examples for me. It wasn’t until my 50s that I developed an appreciation for fiction. There are now libraries in two systems about five miles from my house. I continually check out more books than I can read. It’s a wonderful problem to have!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you, Janet. That reminds me to ask a question of my local libraries. I had my books put into the local libraries in my county, but a friend recently went to borrow it and was told that it was unavailable. She was then told that they do not purchase books more than 3 years old, which seems to be a very strange situation! I’m sure the librarian must have got that wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been told that is the policy of our county’s library system now. That offends me on so many levels. I’ve neglected to file a complaint, but I guess I should. Another library policy that offends me is that a book is weeded from the system if it isn’t checked out in a certain length of time… 2 years or something. I can’t remember the exact rule. Just because a book isn’t checked out doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable resource. For instance, I wrote a local history column for the newspaper for six years. My town wouldn’t exist if the NC Railroad hadn’t specified that location for a depot/station on it’s line. The location of depots/stations was dictated by how often a steam train had to stop for wood and water. I donated a copy of a history of the NC Railroad to our library. Afraid that it might be weeded from the collection, I check it out at least once a year. I really shouldn’t have to do that, since the location of our town of 20,000 people now owes its existence to the NC Railroad! I probably need to also check out my vintage postcard book once a year for the same reason. I know they have to make room for new books, but it seems like more than check-out history should be considered in the weeding policy. I’m glad my post prompted you to look into your local library system’s policies.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had a good conversation with a lovely member of staff in a local library today and she said that if I want to sell copies to the library I would need to contact the organisation managing the leisure and libraries, but I could happily donate my books! 😀 All very laudable, but it doesn’t work if I give them all away! Hey-ho. I will contact them higher up too. Thank you again, Janet. I hadn’t thought about checking out the book, which sounds daft, but if it works, then why not. I guess all systems have to have limits and boundaries somewhere, but often it just seems arbitrary.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lovely post Janet, and you are right, public libraries are a necessity and an asset to any community. We here in Spain value our public library system very much! All the best and a great week to you! We’re still with spring weather here: rain!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rain here, too, Francis, with near freezing temperatures predicted at night here over the weekend; however, our azaleas are blooming a full month earlier than usual. All the best to you this week.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, don’t you just love it when someone expects you to give away your book? That especially hurts if it’s a local public library system unwilling to support a local author. Along the same lines… I approached numerous library systems in western North Carolina after my vintage postcard book was released in 2015 and offered to come free-of-charge, of course, to do a book talk, put the postcards from my book on display, provide a list of trivia questions, and even a crossword puzzle I developed based on the information in my book. I didn’t have but a couple of takers on that. Go figure! I’m offering you a free program for your library to offer! It certainly has been a learning experience. I’m sorry to learn that you’re meeting with obstacles in Australia, too. Hang in there! Thanks for the update. Oh — another experience I had… my sister and I published three genealogy books in 1996. The set of three books sells (or doesn’t sell, as the case may be – LOL) for a little more than $100. (One of the books is 700+ pages; all three are hardcover. They weren’t cheap to publish.) Anyway, we donated a set to the library system in the adjoining county. In return, we received a form letter of thanks indicating that if they found they didn’t need them they’d sell them in a used book sale! I was livid! I contacted the writer of the letter and asked him to please let us know before they sold them for pennies and we’d happily come take the books off their hands. He was apologetic and said he didn’t mean they’d sell our books; they just couldn’t send customized thank-you letters. It still made me mad. Sorry I got started and I couldn’t stop!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s hard to believe Ukraine ever looked that beautiful after watching the horror on the news. Libraries are so wonderful with so many programs, computes, books, DVD’s and so much more. You have been a very busy lady!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What fond memories I have of my childhood hours in the library on North Broadway in Chicago, of the little library in a fort when I was in the army during Viet Nam, and my stack priveleges at vaious univesities and now my home town library down the street where my children learned to love words almost as much as their old man.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Libraries are a wondrous place. I can’t help but pity those among us who have not made that discovery. Thank you for sharing your memories, David.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.