When I was a kid, I adored my small town library. It might have been a thousand square feet, and by the time I went to college I had read a significant portion of their books.
In graduate school I became an academic library snob. (I’ll confess now that I still can’t navigate the Dewey Decimal system with a quarter of my Library of Congress proficiency.) When I graduated and lost my access, I felt pretty bereft, but I was also going through a difficult phase with books.
Lately I’ve come back around to the public library, partly because my library has really awesome services. When we moved here, I went to my closest branch, where I had the same kind of disappointment I always have with public libraries–I tend to read off-the-beaten-path, and it just doesn’t make sense for the library to keep a lot of those books. I realized, though, that I can instantly download e-books, where the selection is pretty decent. I can place holds for those e-books if somebody else has the library’s copy. (I’m looking at you, person who won’t finish the Miss Marple book I’m waiting on.) I can download audio books and “borrow” electronic music. I can also, with one click, request books from the main branch, which is hard to get to in person, and the library will e-mail me when they arrive.
If you stopped going to your local library because they never have what you want, it may be time to start looking again.
As for me, I’m going to keep a running tally this year of books I got from the library instead of purchasing. At the end of the year, I’m going to add up the money I saved and donate a percentage to the library.