Simplicity Sunday

Simplicity Sunday #14 – Five Reasons to Visit Your Local Library

This week is focused on a simple resource you probably have in your community, but may not be utilizing.  Your public library.

Summer 2014 Library Reading Log
My DD’s Summer Reading Log at start of Summer 2014.  We got another yesterday for this summer!

My DD and I then went to our county library yesterday.  We used to go the library once or twice a week before she started school, but we’ve not been going as much in the past year and a half or so.  I’ve missed it.  I love the library.  I have talked about it in a previous Sunday post (over a year and a half ago) and nothing has really changed.  I realize that some people have not been library goers for their entire lives (my mom started me quite young), so I thought I would share my top five reasons (there are so many) to visit your local library and check it out:

First, it is FREE!  No strings attached (other than meeting return deadlines).  No free today, but your credit card will be charged in four weeks and for the remainder of your natural life.  Every library offers slightly different services, but our library has movies, audio CDs, ebooks, book clubs, activities for kids, etc.  It is worth checking out what your library has to offer.

Second, it is quiet.  Well, relatively.  If you need a place to escape to where you don’t have to purchase a $5 coffee and listen to the person at the next table talk about their upcoming visit from in-laws on their cell phone, this is a good spot.  You can’t eat and drink in the library at ours, but they have a great grassy area just to the side of the library that makes for good picnicking and some libraries have rooms where you can eat and drink.

Third, it is constantly changing.  Much like the local bookstore, but without the price tags, our library is constantly changing up the books on it’s front tables.  It has art work that changes every few months.  It offers new selections constantly and often has new activities to try out (we have a knitting group, a book club, a chess club for teens, family movies on Sunday afternoons – with popcorn).  I am always curious to see what they have and what they have going on.

Fourth, and this is parent-specific, your kids can look at books, play with toys and use a computer without you having to worry about buying it later! BONUS:  Other adults are there too! I have tried to teach my daughter that we don’t need to buy something every time we go to a store.  And we often don’t.  But, it is always a battle.  At the library, when she finds a book she really likes, I can feel good about saying, “let’s get it”.  I can also feel good about bringing it back when she has read it and will never look at it again!  Our library has blocks, felt boards, puppet theater with puppets, etc.  It is air conditioned, so in the hot months, it is a great alternative to the park.  They have coloring sheets and crayons and pencils.  And usually, you can find a friendly adult to chat with while your kids play.  It feels safe.  It feels comfortable (I’m not constantly fretting about what she can and can touch).  It is enjoyable without costing a penny.  I can sit and read a book myself, or look at magazines, or even work on something and she is in a safe, cool space.

Fifth and most important, it helps to keep much-needed public spaces available in our communities.  When the big bookstores came to town, a lot of libraries struggled to prove their need in the communities.  Funding was cut.  Hours were cut.  And if people don’t use these services, demonstrating that the community supports and NEEDS these services, the cuts will continue.  We are lucky to have a supportive community, so our library is actually expanding hours back in the Fall (they had made significant cuts a while back).  Public spaces that offer resources for everyone are important to me.  Although I can afford to go to Barnes and Noble or shop online at Amazon to buy my daughter books (we actually buy quite a few at thrift stores, because reuse, recycle, etc.), I want every child, no matter what their financial circumstances to be able to access books and literacy programs and a space that is inviting and encouraging of reading.  I also want adults who do not have computers in their homes to have access to those resources. My parents used the public library computers for a dozen years, never choosing to have a computer in their home.  Many seniors and homeless individuals use the computers at the library to get access to needed resources.

Public spaces can be scary.  After all, they are so, well, public.  Homeless people do use the library much more often than Barnes and Noble (although, sometimes they are in the cafe there).  And to some people, that is a bad thing.  But, to me, this is reality.  And facing the individuals in our communities who are not thriving hopefully will help us remain a community rather than being divided by social class.  We have prided ourselves on NOT being a society based on class division, but we have created these consumerist walls of division between those of us who can participate in that consumerist lifestyle and those who can’t/don’t.  I think that doing more to create community through our public spaces is important.  And if homeless people abuse the public space, they should be removed (and hopefully provided with the help they need, although that is another area of funding that has gone to the wayside in recent decades – our mental health services have collapsed, but I will leave that for another post), but just because they may not be dressed as nice as we are or smell as good as we do or have their hair styled does not mean they don’t deserve to be recognized and served as the humans they are.  I like that the public library provides a space for all of use to coexist.

Stray Thoughts Sunday, Uncategorized

Stray Thoughts Sunday – Why I love the library

Brazil Library

That is not our local library (it is a library in Brazil actually, but I loved the decor).  How I wish it was though.  I would definitely be there all. the. time.  I love just about any library though.  It goes way back.  My mom used to take me to the local library once or twice a week when I was little and I remember how immense it felt to me.  I think I loved it then for the same reason I love it now.  It is just so much potential.  There are people and places and things, new skills, ideas, philosophies…I want to read them all.

I remember watching Phenomenon with John Travolta and thinking how many books I could read if I could stay up 24 hours a day.  That was my take away from that movie.

But, I love the library (over places like bookstores, that also offer a load of books) is that it also seems to represent community, non-consumerism and philanthropy.  I don’t know if that is true of every library, but that is what it is to me.  The ideal space representing the best in society.  It is well-organized, focused (books and computers, maybe some kids toys, DVDs and movies and that’s it), provides services for free if you just get a card, is filled with people who love books, has volunteers working there (as well as a couple of people who I’m sure are underpaid, but doing it because they love it) and provides a space for those at all levels of our socioeconomic community – from the homeless to the wealthy.  There aren’t many spaces we can say that about left in our communities.  Prior to our commuter-oriented, suburbanized evolution, there were all kinds of public spaces.  The grocery (or market as my mom used to call it) – there was typically one, maybe two in a community and everyone shopped there.  The schools (practically everyone was in the PTA and schools often had events that included the entire community – sporting events, concerts, etc.).  The parks.  Or maybe that is just a utopian vision we’ve painted of the past?

Anyways, I like that utopian vision and I have tried to pass on my love of the library to my daughter.  She is only five and right now she loves going to the library.  It is a little “field trip” that we do every couple of weeks.  I hope we will share it for many years to come.  I look forward to sharing the limitlessness that reading brings as she progresses as a reader (she is already reading pretty well for a 5 yo).  I want to be able to go new places with her, meet new people and learn about all kinds of new things.  A Google search is amazing and obviously extremely informative, but it isn’t the same as reading a book and having things become clearer as the pages turn.

So, I am committing myself to a couple of things in 2015.  I’ve already committed to “less screen in 2015” and I’ve been reading before bed instead of playing Candy Crush and Pet Rescue.  But, I’m always looking for what I really love and what is really me and I think I’ve uncovered a few things.  First, I love Murder, She Wrote.  But, it isn’t really Murder, She Wrote I love, it is the nature of the show.  I love that she is a nice, smart, friendly and critically thinking older woman who gets answers by paying attention and not giving up instead of bullying or beating people.  I love the mystery and the anticipation, but I want things to be figured out (I know, not very postmodern of me).  When I go to the library, I feel the people there are much the same on average – they are nice, smart (readers are smart), friendly, critical thinkers who pay attention and get answers through words on a page.  So, I’m going to recalibrate by not only reading more, but volunteering at the library.  I have been looking for a place to volunteer and it seems like it is the perfect place for me to volunteer.  It serves the wider community and I have a love for it.  I am also going to visit more often and participate in more of the things they offer because libraries stay open to serve people and if people don’t go there, they won’t stay open.  I am so glad we have a library that is open six days a week and have a Kid’s area and a Young Adult area and a good selection of movies as well as books as well as CDs.  I want to make sure that is maintained.  I also love that they show movies (my DD and I went and watched “The Long Way Home” during the summer) and offer times with tutors available and chess play and Wii play and other fun stuff for kids who might find it hard to find somewhere to go for free that has things to do.

Anyways – this started out as just a thought piece about the library (we visited there yesterday), but it turned into much more than that.  It turned into a piece that helped me learn something about myself.  Or at least uncover something about myself – or recalibrate something…

What about you?  What do you love?