On Rediscovering The Library

Monday, February 22, 2016

Moving to Queens has been eye-opening in so many ways—in many ways, I feel like I have a new lease on New York City. One of the many surprising things that changed about my life when we moved to Queens has been my book reading habits: I am suddenly a regular at my local library.

Here in Jackson Heights we have no local bookstore, which is a pity (hey, Greenlight, maybe you want to open a Queens outpost?). However, we do have a decent-sized branch of the Queens Public Library, and it is on my way to the subway or home, meaning it's super-convenient to pick up a book. Plus, our local library branch is open late two nights a week, and day care pick-up has me leaving work earlier than I used to, so the library and I are more in sync in our times than we were when I lived in Brooklyn. 

In addition to the newfound convenience of our library's location and hours, the app for the Queens Library has been a life-changer. If I hear about a book I'd like to read, I immediately open the app and see if it is available from the library—any book! If it is, I put in a request. It is so, so liberating to just get a book because I am mildly curious about it. I've borrowed tons of books that I didn't like, which, if you think about it, is great: I am so glad I didn't buy them. Many books come within days—others, like City on Fire, a newly published novel take weeks to get off the queue. I have explored so many books that I would have hesitated to buy because of this, and I am so glad that I have!

Four other factors have played into my borrowing-over-buying habit: 

1. Cost-savings: This one is obvious, but I have saved a ton of money borrowing books instead of buying them. 
2. Earth-friendliness: By borrowing books, I am creating less waste. And by previewing books I think I might like to own, I am avoiding the back-and-forth shipping energy that ordering from and returning to Amazon.com would entail.
3. Anti-monopoly sentiments: I hate to admit it, but I love Amazon.com: I am a Prime subscriber and I use the site often for household goods I cannot easily find in my neighborhood, and also, of course for books, especially now that we do not live near a bookstore. But with my increased library habit, I'm diverting a little spending from Amazon, which feels good. 
4. Lack of clutter: Library books are wonderful because they don't take up any permanent space in our not-so-big home. 

I have a few other thoughts about the library, if you're still listening. Prior to this new-found love affair with our library, it did not occur to me that I could use the library for non-scholarly books. Now that I have, I frequently check out all kinds of leisure reading, including cookbooks and decorating books. Not to mention, there are stacks and stacks of CDs and DVDs to be borrowed.

Finally, on that clutter note, we have a lot of books—like A LOT. Both my husband and I are book-lovers and we are particularly weak in the face of cheap, used books. Anything I can do to reduce the inflow of books is good, and library use has certainly curtailed my accumulation. If I find something I really love, I could always buy it, but in my year of frequent-borrowing, I actually haven't found a single book I needed to buy after I was done with it. Food for thought, book hoarders, food for thought. 

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