by Kathryn Miller Haines
Anyone out there? Oh, you’re all reading the book to the left, aren’t you?
Sounds like the perfect time to talk about a forbidden subject for a published writer. Ready for it?
I love libraries.
Yes, those places where people go to get books they don’t actually pay for. I’m surrounded by them at my day job (literally, since I work in one) and I’m a great devotee of the system. In fact, we even have a family member who started a library. My stepmother, Nancy, took her inheritance and instead of blowing it on fast cars and loose men (my father notwithstanding), created a library in Marion, Iowa. Her philanthropy rose out of her gratitude for the libraries she took her kids too when she was a poor single mother. While I didn’t know her then, I was also one of those kids, being taken by my own wonderful mother to our public library on hot Saturday afternoons where I’d eagerly peruse the stacks for the next great read to get me through the weekend.
Recently there was an article about how unfeasible libraries would be if someone were to propose the idea of a lending library in today’s political and business climate. It’s a mortifying thought that the system that Andrew Carnegie popularized by offering to create a library for any city that had a building that could be used for that purpose would be eradicated because our present culture doesn’t see the need for enterprises that are for people, not for profit.
It’s an easy idea to fall prey to. When I learned that a certain library had twenty holds on my book, my first reaction wasn’t, “Wow! People want to read my book!” but “Loosen the purse strings and buy your own damn copy, ya cheap skate.”
Fortunately, I got over myself two minutes later.
Part of the reason why I wanted to write this post was because I feel increasing shame admitting I am an active library user. There seems to be an assumption that if you're checking out books from libraries, you're not buying them and if you're not buying them, you're not supporting fellow writers and if you're not supporting fellow writers, why the heck should they support you?
Whew. I got tired typing that.
I’m a fast reader and so it makes sense good fiscal sense for me to check out things from a library. If I really want to read something, or it it’s by an author I know, I buy it because there’s one thing libraries don’t do well: creating ready access to new books (the supply never meets the demand, which is why we all bought our copies of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, right?).
For me, the library is the ultimate bookstore, only I get to take the books home to test drive. If I read something I like, I buy it for my sister, whose own village library in England is the size of of a drive-up photomat, or for my mother who's accumulated so many fines at public libraries in the state of Texas that legend has it an alarm will sound if she steps foot in one. And let's face it, when your writing requires a lot of research, you could quickly go broke buying obscure books like this gem that I'm currently pouring over.
So let’s hear it for libraries!