Five months ago today, we moved out of our first home. (I can barely believe it’s been five whole months already, but that’s another story.)
We loved that place for many reasons, not the least of which was that it was literally next door to a public library.
I went to that library almost every day. Most visits were quick: I just needed to return a book, or pick up a reserve item I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. When we were in major decluttering mode before the move, I’d take over magazines for the give-and-take bin and books for the library sale table over daily, sometimes taking multiple trips for multiple loads.
The kids and I would occasionally go to special events and story hour, but usually, we just popped in for fifteen or thirty minutes here or there.
When we moved, I knew we’d miss living 100 yards from the library, but I was unsure (and a little apprehensive) about how exactly our library usage would change. It’s been five months, so I’m getting the idea.
My library fines are up.
I’ve always had library fines, though fairly modest ones. It wasn’t often that I just forgot (although that happened): I’d accrue fines because I was buying time to finish a book before I took it back, or because nobody could locate an overdue item. That happened way too often with my kids’ library items.) It was no big deal to run items next door right before the library closed—it was close, and I needed the steps.
Now that I have to plan ahead to go to the library on purpose, I find myself choosing between getting in the car or just paying the extra twenty cents. I usually choose the latter. Hey, it’s for a good cause. (That’s what I tell myself.)
My steps are down.
I’ve been tracking my steps for almost eighteen months now, and one of the reasons I went to the library so often was to get more. I loved to pop outside when the kids were in bed for a short walk around the block and a stop to pick up a book on reserve, or to return the novel I’d just finished. I don’t do that anymore.
On the other hand, the library is now a pleasant bike ride away, and that’s good exercise, too—especially with twenty pounds of books on your back. But I don’t do that nearly as often as I used to walk.
My library hauls are nearly unmanageable.
I used to go to the library every day, and now I go about once a week. For a family of six heavy readers, that makes for a heavy load. (See above.)
The kids don’t go to the library as much as they used to.
The kids used to pop over with me all the time to the library. Now they don’t go nearly as much, because I don’t go nearly as much.
On the other hand, they’re now learning to request their own books: to be deliberate about what they want to read, and to plan ahead for it. I don’t think this is necessarily better or worse—I believe in the serendipity of the stacks, and I believe in reading deliberately.
Living next door to the library, my kids have had plenty of bookish serendipity. Now they’re learning to read deliberately. It’s not better or worse, but it’s certainly different.
We’re reading as much as we ever did.
In the big picture, nothing much has changed. We used to be 100 yards from the library, now the distance is a little over a mile door-to-door. Both are enviable positions to be in. But all is relative, and having a library in the neighborhood is not the same as having one in your own backyard.
When the library was next door, my kids (and myself, honestly) took the library for granted. It was easy to do, and I didn’t mind it terribly—how lovely for my children to grow up knowing that books were part of their daily lives, in the house and out of it.
Now that the library requires a deliberate—if not difficult—effort to get to, my kids are able to see from a slightly different angle that books matter to our family, and we believe them to be worth the effort.
I’d love to hear about your experience with the library—near and far—in comments, and how that has affected your reading.