Friday, July 2, 2010

{Re}discovery: the library

When I was growing up, the library was always a huge part of summer vacation. I would walk or ride my bike to the library at least once a week. I loved everything about the place: the quiet! the neatly stacked shelves! the old ladies behind the counter! the smell of books! Yes, especially the smell. I love the smell of books.

Somewhere between graduating from college and starting life in the "real world", I lost the magic of the library.

Then something beautiful happened.

I was reading an article about e-books, and someone mentioned the public library. The library? Do they still exist? I haven't set foot in one in years. I had sort of forgotten about them. With the digital-everything world we have grown accustomed to, I guess I assumed The Library had been filed away in the archives of Americana.

But not so!

Turns out, libraries are alive and well! I quickly looked up my local library, which is the Spring Branch Memorial Library, part of the Harris County Public Library system. I printed off a library card application form and headed to the library after work a couple of days ago. The process was pretty simple: fill out the application and show proof of address. Then: voila! They give you library card right on the spot. And it's free. And it looks like this:

One other thing: the library was packed! For some reason I was picturing an old dilapidated building empty except for books and a librarian. I was happy to find that the library was bustling with activity (especially for a Tuesday night)! It kind of warmed my heart.

Libraries these days offer lots more than just access to paper books. Here are some great things I learned:

1. There are 26 branches of the Harris County Public Library. Once you have a library card (check!), you can borrow material from any location, and return to any location!

2. Besides traditional books, the library has access to: free internet, genealogical information, DVDs, audiobooks on CD or for download to your iPod, e-books to read on your computer or with an e-reader, magazines, newspapers, books for sale, reading programs for children & adults, and probably lots more.

3. You can check the library catalog online to see if an item is checked out or in stock. You can also reserve items or get on the wait list for an item online. When the item is ready for pick up, the librarian will email you. It is that easy.

4. It is all free. That's right. Free.

5. I love America.

6. Go pay a visit to your local library. You'll be glad you did!


Zeal said...

One of the great things I've recently learned about my library is that they have audio books that can be checked out from their website and listened to on your computer.

I've recently discovered my local library, and shared the same joy you had.

Rhoda Goldberg said...

Thanks for rediscovering the public library at the Spring Branch Memorial Library. Your blog post has made my day.

Rhoda Goldberg
Library Director

prism said...

We love our library, too!