Monday, November 19, 2012


Evelyn: Look, I... I may not be an explorer, or an adventurer, or a treasure-seeker, or a gunfighter, Mr. O'Connell, but I am proud of what I am.
Rick: And what is that?
Evelyn: I... am a librarian.
-The Mummy

I donate the books I write to the local library.  This isn't just generosity, it also is a cheap way to advertise, and it is a bit of an ego boost to think you have a book in the library (that people are actually checking out) but I have another motive behind it as well.  I love the library.
Its not just that I like books, although that's a pretty significant factor.  The Salem Public Library has been part of my life for more than forty years.  Ever since they were in that old building on Cottage street in the early 70s until the city hall complex (and temporarily out on Fairgrounds), I've been getting books from the library to read.
These days my  mom tends to get the books and I read them at her house when I visit on Sundays.  Its relaxing stretching out on the couch and reading while she naps in the afternoon.  The Salem Public Library is a massive one, especially for a town this size.  The Salem area has grown to about 200,000 people but the library was always gigantic, with over 300,000 books, DVDs, periodicals and so on, in a gigantic three story structure built in the mid 70s.
The thing about a library is that its dirt cheap.  Even if they charge for a library card, its incredibly cheap.  Libraries aren't as valuable as research source with the internet around, but they're still a gigantic resource for reading and learning, and costs you virtually nothing.  Your taxes go into it, donations if any, sometimes you pay for a card, and if your books are late you pay a little.  For that, you get hundreds of thousands of books on your shelf to browse through and find.
Its even a bit intimidating.  A long time ago I knew the library so well I could find books blindfolded, but they've since shifted things around many times and I just don't know where anything is any longer.  Still, it isn't hard to find out, and the search is interesting in its self.  And the old books have a nice sort of smell to them as well.
Libraries are struggling these days.  Book borrowing isn't as popular as it once was, because people just don't read as much as they used to.  Cities can't afford to pay for all the things they used to, states are finding things to trim so they won't have to touch union pensions, and libraries are an easy target.
But when you're facing tough times, high prices, and budget cuts for your house hold (remember, the American people were faced with two choices: cut the government's budget or cut theirs... and they chose their own), a library looms pretty big on the horizon.  Its cheap, its plentiful, and the entertainment you get there lasts a great deal longer than that $60 console game you bought.
Think about your last entertainment purchases, lets even assume they were all great fun.  How long did they last?  How many minutes, let alone hours of entertainment did you get from them?  How likely are you to go there again?  Was that on demand purchase of the movie, the 13 hours of playing Call of Duty 84: Son of Duty, the new app you bought for your phone something you'll go back to again?  How many times are you going to watch that DVD again?
But the library is practically endless.  You'll never read all those books, even if you wanted to.  And they keep adding more.  Every week the library  here has new books added in (and older ones shuffled out, sadly - I can't get Zorro from our library, which is frustrating).  Its great for the whole family, because any child who can read will find things at the library to enjoy.
And unlike almost any other form of entertainment, you have direct input to your local library.  Is there something you wish the library had and it lacks?  Tell them, and chances are it will show up.  They love input from readers, and the more you go there, the more likely it is you'll be remembered.  Donate a little money and they'll remember you even more.
The local library also helps your kids learn to love books.  If you can get them reading, then you've built a lifetime of learning and study that they'll benefit from after you're gone.  I know it can be a challenge just to get them to pick up a book, but you can get them hooked on Harry Potter (or even Twilight, shudder).  Once they've started reading, you can move them on to other options and there are millions of choices out there.
If you've not been to the library for a while, give it a shot.  They probably have a computer there to find books with, and if you need help, those librarians just love to help people find books.  The more people checking out books from the library, the more important they seem to the community when it comes to yearly reports and budgets.
And who knows, you might find some struggling new author's work to read.


Unknown said...

I love the library, but I wonder if in today's political climate it could get built and funded today?

Christopher R Taylor said...

Given the debt Oregon is in, I doubt it. Maybe if they'd cut back the other crap they spend money on there would be money for projects like this.

I mean... I wouldn't be as annoyed at big government if it produced anything worth a damn. We used to get stuff like the Tennessee Valley Authority, NASA, and the Hoover Dam. Now we get bankrupt "green" businesses and union pensions.

Unknown said...

It is so hard to find a balance. I agree with you about trimming some of the senseless spending. I worry though that for some people they, regardless of political affiliation, do not see the need for a public library and that just makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

I hate my local library. It's possibly the loudest place in the city. Even the staff holler at each other in the stacks. I'll pass.