Weekly Geeks: Checking out Libraries

It has been a while since I have participated in a Weekly Geeks post, but this week’s topic is a great one, and one that I think coincides well with the 24 hour read-athon.

The multi question topic deals with our use and support of libraries:
What’s your earliest memory of a library? What was it like for you? Were you more likely to hang out in the gym or the library when you were in school?

I think my first memory of going to the library must have been when I was about 4 years old.  We lived in Houston, TX at the time and I distinctly remember going to the children’s section, sitting on the floor, and looking at all the books on the lower shelves.  I would take some off and browse at the pretty pictures, and we would always take home several to read.

My next memory of the library is probably in junior high and high school.  I remember standing at the card catalog counter looking up possible resources for an English or history paper.  In college my research also included the microfiche machine (remember those?!) and spending countless hours in front of the machine in the nearly dark room trying to take copious notes.  In that regard — I am very grateful that the internet gives us instant, and well-lit access to this data.

Once I graduated college I did not step foot in a library (I was burned out on reading after declaring Political Science as my double major my senior year!), but as soon as my eldest was old enough to enjoy books (about 18 months old), we would make weekly trips to the library.  Her all-time favorite book was discovered at the local library in Norwalk, CT — Barn Dance by Bill Martin, Jr.

While I would often take my children to the library, I rarely used the library for my own personal reading.  In fact, the first time that I went to the library for my own personal interest as an adult was to borrow some books to help me teach a unit on the Gingerbread Man.  Slowly but surely I began to rely on the library for more and more of my lesson plans, and then I gravitated toward using it for personal books as well. (picture to the left is the main Olathe Public Library)

Nowadays, thanks to the many, many book suggestions I glean each week from reading your book blogs, I have  a frequent flyer card at my local library (well, no…not really….but most librarians know my first name BEFORE I check out).  Books that I think I will only read once – I tend to borrow from the library.  Books that I think I would like to re-read, I go ahead and purchase for my own bookshelves.  (picture to the left is my neighborhood branch of the Olathe library)

How’s the health of the library system in your community? How do you support your local library? How often do you check out books from the library vs. buying books? Tell us what your favorite library is like and include some photos if you can.

I think our library is doing alright financially.  We live in a fairly affluent part of the state, and there are several branches in our county library system.  The library is starting to take prudent measures to stay solvent, however,  For example, they no longer send reminder slips by mail — phone calls and email are the only options.  The annual Library  Book Sale (which involved renting the gymnasium of a church and lasted 4 days) has been discontinued and will be replaced with several, smaller sales throughout the year.  The smaller sales will be held in the library meeting room, cutting down on space rental and moving costs.  (picture to the left is the central resource library for Johnson County, KS)

I make it a point to be a Friend of the Library.  I use their services and feel that it is only right that I support their cause.  While I find the selection adequate for our small town existence, the library itself is rather plain vanilla.  This is fine by me, though.  I would rather the money go towards the purchase of new books than to create a state-of-the-art building facility.  It is for this reason that I rarely go to the library to just browse.  I find that searching the database online – from the comfort of my own home – and placing books on hold to be much more convenient.

Now if money were no object, I would gladly support my local library with a generous donation, but I would much prefer to buy my books at an Independent Bookstore.  However, since I am not independently wealthy and must watch my pennies, I am very grateful that our public library system is financially stable and able to provide a variety of literary resources and community programming.


  • Anonymous

    Ugh, microfiche! *shudder*

    I don't browse for books at my library either. It is so much easier just to search the online catalogue and put things on hold! I do browse for music, though.

  • caite

    I have written about it before, but one of my earliest memories, and a very happy one, is going to the library with my mom every week. And then getting my own library card…

  • Sandy Nawrot

    I always hit the local library in the summer. I think this is where the love of the smell of books was born!!! Sadly, they built a new library and the old one now is used for something else. The library we have here in Orlando rocks. While they have had a few minor cutbacks in services, they still do deliver my ordered books to my house! We'll see how long that lasts!

  • Medical Librarian

    My sister, who is eight years older, had a part-time job at the public library in our small town when she was in high school. I sometimes went along with her, sitting somewhere and reading or, best of all, using the cool due date stamp machine they had.

    Well, I thought the machine was pretty cool at the time, anyway!

  • bermudaonion

    My first memory of the library is elementary school.

    The library system here seems to be doing fine even without my using it much. I am going to an author event Thursday night at the library, though!

  • Florinda

    I'm really not a library user any more – once I realized that my reading habits weren't really compatible with a book-borrowing schedule, I got out of the habit. I do donate my used books to our local Friends of the Library, though.

    You caught my attention when you mentioned the local library in Norwalk, CT – that was my local library when I was a kid (until we moved to Florida when I was almost 13). I LOVED that place! When I think "library," it's still what comes to mind.

  • Kaye

    going to the library with my mother when I was very young is one of my fondest memories. School libraries, not so much; there was always a teacher telling you to do something, "quickly children, quickly." Sorry, library visits are not to be hurried.

  • Vivienne

    I am a big libray user. I think at least half of the books I read are from the library. I can remember my nan taking me to the library to get my first library ticket. My aunty used to work there and she showed me where the children's books are. Then you were only allowed to take three out at a time. The library is no longer there now as they pulled it down and built flats, such a shame.

  • Staci

    I loved your post!! For me libraries have always played an important role in my life from the age of 5 right up to 41….I couldn't imagine my life without one and hopefully I won't have to!!!

  • The Tome Traveller

    My Mom took us to the library all the time when I was growing up. Not too long ago I went back to the branch we used to go to. It looked so tiny! I remember it as huge…it held the world to me then. The walls were that awful industrial light green, though.

  • Margot at Joyfully Retired

    Visiting the library with my parents is one of my earliest memories. There is no way I could have fed my obsession with reading all these years without the library systems wherever I've lived.

    Many systems are struggling today. The one where my son lives (Northern California) shut down the last two weeks of 2009 because of budget shortfalls. They also let a number of librarians retire without replacing them.

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