February is Library Lovers Month. I come from a family of library lovers, and I am one myself.
When I was a child, we could only check out six books from the library at a time. My mother took my siblings and me to the library almost every week during the summer, and I checked out my six books. I usually read one of them on the drive home (making me carsick, but I couldn’t wait to explore my treasures), and I had all of them read within a couple of days.
Then I started on my brother’s books. I read as many Hardy Boys as Nancy Drew, and Robert Heinlein along with Maud Lovelace. Then I was bored . . . until our next trip to the library.
I’ve mentioned before that my mother was a librarian. She didn’t become a librarian until my youngest brother was in school, and she worked at the school that he and my sister attended. I was away at college by that time, so I didn’t really get to see my mother as a librarian.
But I know she was proud of her knowledge of the books and systems in the library. She told me stories about the weekly library periods that each class in the school had and the activities that she devised from them—from finding fun, easy books for the youngest readers, to teaching middle-grade students about the card catalogs and using encyclopedias.
Even mentioning card catalogs and encyclopedias makes me realize how much the world has changed in the last thirty years. Now we go online to a library website, and we can search the entire catalog in seconds, without really knowing what we are looking for. Keywords and search engine optimization are now more important than subject cards—and much faster and easier to use.
Encyclopedias are mostly a thing of the past. I have a 1989 Encyclopedia Britannica set in my family room (both Macropedia and Micropedia), and yearbooks for the set up through 2009. A year after my husband and I finally decided not to continue buying the annual yearbook (we’re out of shelf space), Encyclopedia Britannica halted publication of the yearbooks completely. Perhaps we were their last customer.
In any event, while it is sometimes fun to browse the encyclopedia, Wikipedia is faster, if somewhat less reliable. Google puts more knowledge at our fingertips than the encyclopedia, and stays up to date without an annual purchase.
Yet despite the changes, I still am a strong patron of libraries. I love browsing the shelves in libraries, and I usually come away with something unexpected. Still, I limit my time in libraries now, because of the ease of ebooks.
Most often now, I feed my ebook habit through Overdrive. I have accounts at three public library systems, and I get ebooks through all three. Managing the holds at these three separate systems can be a nightmare—sometimes several books all become available at once. Which to read first?
What has your association been with libraries, past and present?