Saturday, June 4, 2011

Libraries, the Unknown, and Me

Libraries and me: we don't have much experience with each other. I remember checking a book out one time when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I had to do a paper or something on a president, so I chose George Washington, I got a library card, and I checked out a book about him. That's the extent of my library experience, at least until recently...

I go through quite a few books (about one a week), and it gets expensive to constantly be buying books, even when you get them at discount/closeout places (which is what I do). I don't keep many books that I read, only the only the ones I really like, so when I finish a book I generally try to sell it online. But eventually I found that I was selling old books slower than I was reading new ones, so my "already-read, trying-to-sell-online" stack was getting increasingly bigger. I finally decided I had to do something...both to cut costs and also to cut down on the number of "already-read" books laying around.

With a bit of hesitation I started looking up libraries in my area, and cautiously I looked at the details of exactly how it all worked. Hesitation and caution. Yep, that describes it...mainly because I'm a bit of a clean-freak, and the thought of reading a book that an unknown number of unknown people have read in unknown places just freaked me out. (Which shows why up to this point I had been so keen on buying 'new', unused, unread books.)

I was surprised to find that libraries have come a long way from what I thought they were like, and the one by me is unbelievably modern. You can look at all the books online, see if they are available or checked out; if another patron has a book checked out, you can see when it's due back. If a book is available, you just punch in your library card number and voila, that book is on hold and waiting for you at the front desk. There's also these cool self-check systems everywhere, which let you check out books on your own, sort of like the self check-out systems in stores like Wal-mart, etc. Plus, the library is hooked up with email, so they send email receipts for check-outs, and reminders when books are due. And one of the best things: if you need to renew a book, it's no big deal. Just hop online, click a few times, and presto, your book is renewed for additional time!

All of this is great, you may say, but what about that original problem? The unknown number of unknown people that have read the books in unknown places. Yes, I admit, that was still a problem for me. But I was desperate to change my situation, and unwilling to cut back on my reading. I did some online searches, and I came up with a solution... but in the famous words of tv and movie psychiatrists, "Our time is up." I'll share my discovery of the solution to the "three unknowns" in my next post. Pictures will be included!

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