June 15, 2015

Discussion | How to Appreciate a Library

I was the little kid who went to the library every week and came out carrying her weight in books. I have had dozens of different library cards because I used them until all of the writing was so worn out and the barcode would not even scan (I also had one that I sat on and it consequently snapped in half, but that does not count). 

I love going to libraries and reading, finding new books, talking with other bookworms, recommending books, and just enjoying the magical atmosphere of silence.

But recently, I discovered that I am in the minority of people who still appreciates libraries in all of their bookish glory.

My local library is woefully underused and under-appreciated. It is quite sad considering the endless potential that the small building holds. It is a center for the enrichment of the community: a place for everyone to learn, socialize, and enjoy themselves. 

Unfortunately, in this age where technology is always in our pockets along with infinite virtual entertainment, the library is forgotten in lieu of funny viral videos and whatever social media site is popular at the time. 

I believe that libraries are still an invaluable resource and should be appreciated to the full extent that they deserve. Here are a few tips to get started at your local library.

1. Participate in programs.
Believe it or not, libraries are intended for more than just checking out books. Most libraries also provide programs and events catered for kids, teenagers, and adults.
For example, my library hosts an annual summer reading club for everyone from toddlers to adults. You are supposed to keep track of how many minutes you read a day, then you get prizes and enter raffles for every two hundred you read. Along with the prizes, every week is packed with programs coordinated with the year's theme. This year is centered around superheros. So, there is a Marvel trivia game, a lock-in for the teenagers, and countless storytime readings for the kids. 
There are also a ton of book clubs for any genre, including mystery, YA, romance, thrillers. 
And the best part about library programs? You can suggest a program and make it your own. 

2. Check books out.
Librarians are smart people. They tend to buy more of the books that people check out the most. So, if you want your library to continue buying books from a specific author, the best thing to do is to check out books by that author. you can recommend the book to other library patrons. Just make sure that someone is leaving the library with that book in her hands. Then, the library will be more likely to continue buying that author's new books or the new books in that series, or whatever you wanted to promote.

3. Request purchases.
Sometimes, librarians need help knowing what the people want. This is where purchase requests come in. You can ask the library to purchase a book via online or in the library. Though this is normally not a guarantee of the purchase, it puts the book on the librarian's radar. 

4. Get a library card.
This may seem obvious, but I would say about 25% of the patrons at my library (which is just an estimate, do not quote me on it) do not have a library card. Library cards are the currency of libraries (besides the money that you use to pay fines). You use it to trade for books other resources (which will be addressed below). You can never experience the full paradise of a library without your own library card.

5. Use all of the resources.
Believe it or not, libraries have more than books. They have computers, magazines, DVDs, CDs, newspapers, audiobooks, ebooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, printers, copiers, puzzles, and other things to entertain and inform. My library even has a coupon exchange basket where you can take and leave coupons. If you need something, it is most likely available (for free!) at the library.

6. Volunteer. 
One of the best ways to learn to appreciate something is to work for it. This principle applies to libraries too. Once you learn the ins and outs of the Dewey Decimal System, perfect your alphabetical organization skills, and help people find their next favorite book, you will truly recognize how important libraries are to the community. 

7. Make conversation.
I know that you have been told all of your life that libraries are a quiet place and whatever you do, DO NOT TALK. Of course, you should not be making loud conversation if someone is trying to read or study near you, but you should feel free to make conversation with someone. If you are not disturbing anyone else, you are not doing anything wrong. Libraries are a place for people who love books, and really, a place to share that love. So talk to someone, whether it is your librarian, a friend, or a complete stranger. 

8. Get to know your librarian.
First of all, get rid of that stereotypical image of the grouchy old librarian who hates kids and everyone else who dares to talk to her. That librarian does not exist. That cliche was probably invented by some poor kid who hated reading as a kid and decided to take his aggression out on a one of the nicest people in the world-- his librarian. 
I am friends with my librarian and I have loved all of the librarians I have met. They give my book recommendations and I give them recommendations about the newest books to buy for the library (it is a mutually beneficial relationship). 

What is your favorite part about your library? How often do you visit? Have you done all of these things? What is your advice to properly appreciate libraries?

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