The primary reason why my wife and I selected our present place of residence seems now pointless given that our income generation has no longer a geographic requirement. There is one item from my “nice to have” list when selecting this home (it made the cut), that has now become a must have: Namely, living within reasonable distance from the public library. I find myself spending more and more time here (yes, I’m typing this at the nearest of two libraries in my small town), and utilizing ever more of the many resources.
The Library of things.
I just returned a board game. I do have some board games at home, but my library lends games and puzzles of all kinds, and for all ages. Obviously I enjoy saving money, and the impact of being able to share resources within the community. But the value to me goes beyond that. I live in a small home. Not tiny-house small, but roughly half the size of the average modern home. So we have to watch the amount of stuff we bring in. Therefore having the ability to easily borrow things like games, toys, musical instruments, telescopes, slide projectors, wood burning kits, 3D printers (ok, you have to use that on-site) is quite the problem solver. As I am typing this, a woman just checked out a WiFi hot spot, because the internet at her home had gone out, and she needed to continue working. How great is that?
Magazines and newspapers.
To me, these present a two-fold problem: The bigger one is when one enters my home, I now feel compelled to read it, lest it be a total waste. Thus every periodical which enters my home represents an obligation. As someone who values freedom, I strive to keep obligations to a minimum. Then there is the second waste of disposing of it, read or not. Digital subscriptions are one way to address this, but that’s not for me. While I enjoy creating on the digital, paper is my preferred medium for consumption. I’ve discovered my library stocks all of the titles I was reading, and since I am usually just interested in an article or two, they don’t even come home with me. The truth is, I rarely even look at them now, but it’s nice to know I can if I want to.
I’m taking a distance learning class right now. Having earned my undergrad online, I’m no stranger to this. However, that was at a time when my home was empty during the day, and I could go into my place of work and reserve a conference room at any time. No longer, but I can reserve a private room at the library if I need to take an exam, or such. Although I’m normally just with my laptop at a table, sometimes by the fireplace. The library is my office.
Streaming music is amazing, but I don’t listen often enough to feel I’m getting my money’s worth on any of the platforms. I really just listen when I’m in the car by myself, which is only a few minutes on any typical day. But there’s always a disk from the library in there if I want something other than silence (or ad-laden radio). Audiobooks are great, and I listened to a ton when I used to have a long commute. I listen to exactly three podcasts, and will still throw an audiobook in the mix now and then. As a family, we schedule one to three films per week to watch together, thus I’ve found video streaming to be worth the cost. We will still occasionally borrow a film if we can’t get it on one of the streaming services.
In most locales in which I’ve resided, public libraries are the place where the homeless can get out of the cold for a bit. While this is a function I wish didn’t need to exist, it’s an important benefit.
I seldom purchase books.
Yeah, this one seems obvious, but I take it further than I used to: When I want to read a title that isn’t available to borrow, I request it for purchase. While novels are my preferred genre, these purchase requests are usually newer non-fiction books I’ve heard about. In each and every case the library has approved my request. I don’t have to own it, and the community can benefit as well.
My kids are well read.
My wife and I were able to instill a solid daily reading habit from birth in both of our kids (now 4 and 7). One of the benefits of having only scheduled screen time, is that they both are voracious readers (the younger still needs to be read to, but he asks for it incessantly). Right now I have 46 items checked out, and that’s my card alone. My wife takes the kids at least once per week herself, and has a good number checked out as well. When the kids aren’t in school or summer camp, my checkouts have hit as high as 70 titles. And yes, every single book is read, often multiple times.
I’m saving quite a bit of money.
Another obvious one. But have you ever stopped to calculate the savings? Well let’s see: In the past three years, I’ve borrowed 931 items from my library. Figuring an average price of $12 per item (and that’s got to be low), that works out to $11,172, or $3,724 of value per year. Dang, that’s about half of what I pay the town in property tax coming right back to me (stickin’ it to the man!). But you would never actually purchase that many books, you say. And yes, that’s rather the point: I’m able to live this lavish life with all of the knowledge and entertainment I could ever want for me and my family, never mind that it costs me nothing aside from the taxes I am compelled to pay (and the occasional late fee).
I think public libraries are indispensable. Stop by, if you haven’t been to yours in a while.
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