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PUBLIC LIBRARIES - Relics of the Past?

I spent many enjoyable hours of my childhood in the local public library. The converted, two story, white clapboard house with cozy bookshelf-lined rooms was a short walk from my home. I eagerly pounced on any opportunity to help the librarian, or I just perused the bookshelves and enthusiastically sought out new authors and books.

I devoured any and all horse books, like Farley’s Black Stallion series, and Henry’s books about Misty and Stormy. I loved the many dog/collie books by Albert Payson Terhune, the author of Lad, A Dog. The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder led me to a life-time fascination with, and respect for, the strong pioneer women who helped build this country.

In my adult years, however, I strayed a bit from my childhood roots. I purchased the books I wanted to read, or I sometimes borrowed them from friends. I didn’t find the time to wander the libraries of the towns in which I lived. Yet, I admit I always felt the pull.

With the advent of e-books, and the availability of instantaneous, computer-generated information on Google, public libraries could easily have become dinosaurs. They could have faded away as relics of simpler times. Fortunately, I don’t believe that has happened. The libraries I’ve visited in recent years have assumed a broader community role than in years past. They serve the public by providing free computer use and internet access as well as meeting rooms for community activities. The librarians of my youth would perhaps be saddened by some of the changes. I hope, as I’m sure today’s librarians do, that this new category of library patron occasionally scans the bookshelves while they’re availing themselves of other library benefits.

For me, things have come full circle. While I may not spend hours perusing the book shelves as I once did, I do visit my local library about once a week. I usually leave with an audio book and at least one hard cover book.

One reason for my rediscovery, and for scheduling the library into my week, is my innate frugality. In an earlier blog I addressed the attraction my Kindle holds for me. However, what I did not mention in that blog is how much I resent the high prices that publishers set for the e-book versions of popular, best-selling books, and I haven’t yet availed myself of the public library’s e-book services. I’ve found a balance which suits me. I borrow those books from the library. In so doing, I’ve rediscovered the joys of an institution that held such a draw for my younger self. As I watch a steady stream of folks of a similar age to me entering and leaving the library, I sometimes wonder if they are also on a path of rediscovery, or were they, perhaps, more loyal than I was throughout the busy years of career and family?

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