more pearls than whine

Monday, March 14, 2005

I Love Libraries.

Libraries have played a significant role in my life (I've used them as a "patron" ... and I've also been employed by public and school libraries at different points in my life).

An early significant library memory is of riding my hand-me-down 26" balloon tire bike, complete with woven basket, to the library during summer vacation. I would fill the basket with fiction and live in one book after the other. They took me to different places where I met interesting people. Did I read to escape? You betcha. Still do. And I would read because I want to find out what happens next. That's a given.

At some points in my life, not being in the world was so important that I would escape into one book, finish it, and start another without every coming up for air. I KNEW I had a problem, but it would run its course. Sometimes I would reading voraciously, at other times just in a trickle (during these periods, I was apt to be involved in the world). My reading habits are more balanced now, so I escape in a less desperate fashion. Picking up a book and reading it for 20 minutes is a mini-vacation. When I listen to books, I'm doing something else at the same time, usually, so I'm still participating in the world.

All that said, I've never been so passionate about Libraries as I am now.

I have four different library cards, three for library systems nearby (I even pay for the privilege of checking books out in one of these systems) and one for NYC (I couldn't resist), even though I'm too far away to check out materials ... but I can go on line, and do research, etc. I visit two or more libraries each week to return and check out materials and I'm online checking their websites frequently.

I usually borrow unabridged audio books, especially those produced by Recorded Books ( I'm especially fond of their narrators ... they are the best overall. Listening Library (children's) also has very fine narrators. Although I'm always reading books too, I'm totally hooked on listening. I've enjoyed books that I might not have picked up to read. For me, listening makes the "reading" experience even richer.

I began listening to audio books when I had to drive on interstate roads ... that type of driving makes me so sleepy ... my eyes would literally want to slam shut ... I couldn't stand it and would have to leave the interstate and find four lane divided highways or other main roads with more visually interesting scenery. I can tolerate interstates longer when I'm listening to a story. I stop the story only if traffic gets especially challenging or if I'm navigating through a town or city.

Now I listen during a 20-25 minute commute, when I'm out and about doing errands, when I'm cooking, when I'm doing anything mundane that doesn't require my full attention, and of course, when I travel. I wouldn't be listening right now because I would have to restart the tape or disk where I last remembered it. I would just tune it out. I also wouldn't be listening now because I just happen to be on a library computer (another great advantage to using the library).

I just had an hour before going to the movies, something I haven't done lately, and thought I would work on my "I Love Libraries" draft ... this sure is being written in bits and pieces.

Anyway, I do love libraries. You get to borrow materials (books, movies, music, magazines, etc.), do research, use their computers, and take advantage of their online sites; you can sit and read, write, think. They have classes, talks, exhibits, presentations ... all kinds of opportunities ... and they have real people ... librarians ... to help you if you want to ask for it. I've always thought, If you can read, you can learn how to do anything! That might be a little simplistic, but there's a lot of truth to it.

I've bought some audio books, but I discovered that libraries have fantastic selections of unabridged audio books. After I essentially ran through one branch's unabridged audio collection, I explored others. In that way I've come to add different libraries to my circuit. I know that I can get anything available within a system sent to a nearby branch through interlibrary loan ... which I sometimes do, especially if I have a specific title or narrator I'm interested in. But, sometimes I don't know what I want, so browsing is very satisfying and rewarding. You don't always know what you want until you see it.

I'm particularly fond of fiction, in book or audio form. Lately I've been listening to "young adult" stories, which I probably wouldn't have picked up in book form. I've listened to Caroline B. Cooney's "Janie" stories ... The Face on the Milk Carton is the first and you would definitely want to read/listen to them in order. I found one library that has a particularly fine collection of young adult audio books ... by Recorded Books ... and have pretty much exhausted them. I also listen to a wide range of "adult" titles too.

When I'm reading a book, I tend to start racing along and often miss the flavor, the nuance, so for me listening makes the "reading" by audio a very rich experience. I listened to No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, narrated by Lisette Lecat. Wow. She has a soft South African accent, which is very easy to understand. She clears up the mystery of the pronunciation of unfamiliar words and speaks with a rhythm of the language that gives it a certain authenticity. There is such a sense of being in Botswana. She does all the different voices ... and there is no mistaking which character is speaking (this is very typical of Recorded Books narrators).

Yep. Libraries are just about the best deal going ... a true case of getting full value from your tax money, provided you take advantage of the materials and services available.

One odd thing about borrowing versus buying books (I'm in favor of both options): I've found that you're more likely to actually read the book right away when you borrow it. But when you buy the book, it might sit around for weeks, months, even years before you get to it. After all, you can read it anytime. You know the saying, "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach?" It's kind of like that, so you find that you have a ridiculous number of unread books. But of course, if you're cut off from civilization, you'll still have something to read.

Get a life? Well, this is the reading part of it. As for the accumulation of books themselves, that's another story. I love books!


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