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Rediscovering the Library

I have a friend who theorizes that you can learn everything you need to know about a person by going through his or her wallet. My wallet needs to be cleaned out, so I think there’s a fairly accurate picture of my life in the folds of my wallet–insurance cards (both health and car), appointment cards for the doctor, punch reward card for that frozen yogurt place by TCU’s campus, old metro card from my last trip to NYC, and two library cards for the Flower Mound and Lewisville Public Libraries. I have had these library cards since before I actually knew how to read at age 4. If you look on the back for the signature, you will find my four-year-old handwriting scribbling out my first name in sprawling letters, with my mother’s neat hand writing out my name underneath.

My family and I have been involved in libraries for as long as I can remember. My mom has volunteered regular at the local library for years, and my brother and I went to reading and story time from the time we could sit still and listen. My childhood memories are filled with snippets of plays, activities, and summer reading challenges. It was in the library that I began to appreciate the power of books, the smell of the pages, the crinkle of the dust covers. My parents bought my brother and I bricks to help pay for the new library when we expanded. I still smile when I stand in front of the library and see my name on a brick almost 15 years old. When I was in high school and active in National Honor Society, I fulfilled my volunteer requirements by helping out with the summer reading program–handing out prizes and dutifully receiving burns from the popcorn machine as I popped popcorn for movie night while filling Dixie cups with lukewarm instant lemonade. I shelved during the school year, cracking my knees as I bent down to straighten the children’s books. I loved these evenings at the library, remembering a favorite book as I sorted the returns on the shelves.

But somehow, for some reason, I have forgotten the library since my high school graduation. I’ve spent most of my book discovery either online or in brick-and-mortar bookstores, agonizing over spending my part-time pay on that paperback that looked so enticing. My thoughts would often go, “It would take three hours of work to pay for this book–is it worth it?” The usual answer was a resounding, “Yes.” But as I’ve decided to move to New York after my graduation in December, I realized I couldn’t keep acquiring books. I needed to save money and space. I’ve sold a large portion of my collection, only keeping those books that have deep sentimental value, are my very favorites, or are gifts from close family and friends, notes inside the covers and on title pages that I can’t bear to part with. Now I realize I can’t buy any new books, not if I want to get to New York without bringing a miniature library with me. But I still have an insatiable desire to read. So where do I go and what do I do? I go to the library.

Yes, the library has its drawbacks. I try not to think about the number of hands and germs that have touched the pages, and I try not to get frustrated when that book I’ve really had my eye on has three hold requests and won’t be available until probably November. But for all the “inconveniences” (read: first-world problems), I was delighted after my first trip to the library this past weekend. I checked out four of my old favorite murder mysteries that I’ve had to sell to create shelf space, and I found four promising nonfiction reads. I’ve already read two and enjoyed them immensely–The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson and Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Randy Frost and Gail Steketee. I also went to the TCU library to check out some books for research for my honors thesis–13 books checked out until November. Since I have graduate student status, I could have checked out up to 100 at once if I’d wanted to, a shocking number that I couldn’t really fathom. The fact that over 1 million titles and articles are available at the TCU library is both overwhelming and exciting.

The library is an incredible resource–I can read as many books as I want without paying a dime and without my shelf becoming cluttered and crowded. I’m grateful and blessed that my community has two amazing libraries close by, and the TCU library is so well cared for and so friendly, even if learning the LIbrary of Congress sorting system freaked me out a little my freshman year. Thanks to the library, I can enable my reading habit without going broke and without piles of books on the floor because my shelf space ran out. Library shelves are just as full of promise and excitement as bookstore shelves, and we can all benefit from a trip to our local library.

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