Why Didn’t I Think of This Before?

My Books (some of them)

My Books (some of them)

If you’ve ever seen Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and you’re a book-oholic like I am, your dream house might include a library like the one in the Beast’s castle. You know the kind – book-filled shelves stretching into the stratosphere, complete with those rolling ladder thingies that are absolute necessities if you want reach the upper shelves.

Of course, my fantasy house doesn’t stop there. I want books everywhere. I’ve seen houses where the stairs are shelves with books underneath or where unconventionally-shaped bookcases are built into the walls and nooks of every room.

Since, however, reality is quite a different thing than my dreams, my books reside in my china cabinet (the china is in boxes who knows where), on top of my spinet piano, in a small, three-shelf corner bookcase in my room, and the cookbooks are above the cabinets in the kitchen (let’s be honest: they’re all over the kitchen). The only reason my five-year-old’s bookshelf still has room on it is because his little brother strews the board books throughout the house, so I can’t even claim eminent domain and stash my stuff there. If I decide to buy one more book for myself. . . well, I guess I haven’t put any knickknacks on top of the buffet for a reason.

Space isn’t the only problem. Believe me, I will find room, if I have to balance them on top of fan blades or do something less creative like stack them in the corners. I do have several books in “the cloud” (either Kindle or iBook editions), but I prefer to read physical books with actual pages (although I do publish online – but that’s for another blog). So recently, when I realized that I was going to finish Drums of Autumn (Outlander), the fourth book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I just couldn’t stomach shelling out another thirty bucks on a book that I want but don’t need. (Read this post to see how much catching up I have to do to reach 2013’s reading goal.)

Now, some of you have already figured out the obvious solution, which saves both space and money, and you’ll think I’m an idiot for not coming to the same conclusion earlier: just check out the book from the library. Well, duh, why didn’t I think of that?

Time to ‘fess. The last time I checked out a book from a local public library was when I was fourteen. And yes, that was over half my life ago. It’s rather shameful, I admit. I mean, my dad worked in libraries as a teenager, my mother worked in our former church’s media center, and one of my favorite places to volunteer at my son’s school is in the library. So why the decade-plus hiatus?

When I was fourteen, I started reading really long books – thousand-plus pagers. They took longer to read than libraries’ allotted two-week borrowing period, and I wanted to spend my time reading them rather than going back to renew all the time. Plus, once I started earning a little spending money, I could afford my own books and immediately grew my collection. I went from bugging my dad to search the various libraries for new Agatha Christies once a week or so to buying almost every Stephen King title available. It also didn’t hurt that we lived near an awesome used bookstore. (Chamblin Bookmine rocks!) Lastly, whereas I couldn’t care less about many other material things, books are the key to my heart – I want to possess them. (My husband figured that one out pretty quickly.)

Now, I did spend quite a bit of time in my university’s library back in my college days, but I didn’t go for the fun of it. When you associate going to the library with study groups and research papers, it kind of loses its appeal.

Then, early in our marriage, my husband and I moved to a different county, thus making my poor, unused library card obsolete anyway. We lived about ten minutes from a very nice library – which was right over the county line. And these two counties do not share benefits. I could enter that library, sure. But check a book out? No way, Jose. The closest library within our own county was over twenty minutes away, and since I was out of the habit. . . Well, you get the idea.

After I had kids, I heard people talk about story times at the various libraries around town, but it never occurred to me to take them. I’m a busy mom, I work, and I am somewhat anti-social. If another mom had invited me, I probably would have considered it. But I should have gone anyway, regardless. I recently had to meet a friend during the week, and the most convenient time was just after story time. So I figured I’d tag along with her, and at least my younger son would enjoy it. Peter was the oldest kid there by far, but I was glad that he was entranced by all the books. Unfortunately, it was, yet again, a library in the wrong county. Peter sometimes checks out books from our church’s library, but after seeing the real thing, he begged me to get a card. We now live less than ten minutes away from a library with an excellent children’s department, so I finally broke down and went. Not only could Peter have access to far more than I could ever afford, but it was clear that if I wanted to read The Fiery Cross (Outlander), I would have to go to the library or dip into the diaper fund. Sorry, books. When you have a twenty-month-old, diapers win.

Hey, I could get used to this. Now Peter has a new reason to be excited to read. And the two-week deadline gives me new incentive to read, read, read.

But just to make sure, when I checked out Gabaldon’s next 900-plus page doorstop, I asked the librarian how my chances were of renewing it.

She looked at me, taking in the baby on one hip and the energetic five-year-old next to me. I’m sure she was thinking, Good luck finishing this in the next two months, lady. Then she smiled and said, “They’re good.”

4 thoughts on “Why Didn’t I Think of This Before?

  1. I would love to have a huge library in my house! My problem is my kids like to borrow my hardcovers and they are not the gentlest. They don’t understand the love of books like we do.

  2. Mandy P. says:

    I’m bad about the library. I know I should utilize it more often, but if I like a book I want my own copy that I can go back to again and again. Which is why we are borderline drowning in books at my house. 🙂

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