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Why I Never Go To The Public Library

screaming kid in libraryNote from Josh: This guest post made me laugh pretty hard. Unfortunately some of it is true. I’d follow this piece up with another great guest post, Libraries Matter.

Guest post by Roman

I love to read books.

I can not imagine a day without reading for at least an hour. Some need coffee, some need to be with their kids, some need TV, I need a book in my hands.

Deciding on what book to read is not only about words. It is about mood – are you gloomy or happy? It is about where it will be read, will it be a quit place or a loud place, will it be hot or cool? These factors play an equally important role as the words between the covers.

Reading is a total body experience

Reading is not simply picking up a book and jumping in bed – it is everything around it as well. It is the candles, the music, the caressing of toes below the table and the smiles above. Reading is an experience.

Choosing a book is choosing your best friend for the next few weeks. Someone you will spend every day with, take everywhere, and think about always. You are about to devote body and soul to your book.

And that is why I never take my book to the library.

Before I begin my tirade of why the library is so horrible I need to admit something. When I say library I do not mean all libraries. I mean the three libraries I have been to. One was at my High School and other two are public libraries in my home city.

Although I have never been to your public library I am quite certain is it similar to my public library. All public library have the same fundamental flaw. Libraries like all government owned registration offices, passport offices, post offices, unemployment offices, schools, hospitals, suffer from the same problem. They are all run by the government.

Governments are good at running things – agree or disagree? For now it does not matter. I will give you reasons why a lover of reading like me never reads at the library. Why the public library is the way it is can be left for another day (hint: the government).

Public Library Are A Not A Good Place To Read Because They Have…

No books

For a book with any level of in-demand-ness you will need to get on a waiting list. Forget about just walking into the library and picking up the latest bestseller or must read book. As far as I can tell, the rule for public libraries is that if nobody wants to read it then you will find it at the library.

Screaming kids

The classic image of a library is the old librarian squinting over her glasses, pressing her finger across her lips and blowing out a load shhhhhhhhhhh every time you whisper to your friend for the time. That is the Hollywood image. The reality is that the library is a screaming brats war zone.

No Good Chairs

Why do the chairs at the library have to have the seat and backrest at a
ninety degree angle? Where does the library get these chairs? Everywhere else you can sit on chairs in which you can lean. Not the library – at the library you have to sit with the metal backrest digging into your spine. Arm rests? What are those?.

No Food or Drink

If you plan to go to the library I recommend that you go to the
animals section and get a book on camels (the library will have this in stock). Turn to the chapter on humps and read about how they store energy enabling the camel to survive the desert. Study this well because the library does not allow food or drink. Humans can survive a maximum of five hours in the library, thanks to their humps camels can endure more.

In summary: at the library I am reading the 1935 edition of The Ohio Wheat Crop Failure, little Timmy is screaming at little Bobby, my back is killing me, and my hands are starting to shake because of my forced abstinence of coffee.

Greedy Capitalists Make Better Libraries

I was in a library at least 15 years ago. Maybe it has changed since then, but I doubt it –government does not work that quickly.

Fortunately there are non-government library substitutes. For the last 15 years Chapters has been my library of choice. They have all the latest books, comfortable chairs, a kid’s section, and Starbucks.

I walk into the big store. A comfortable room temperate – not too hot and not too cold. The air smells two parts books and one part coffee beans.

After a pleasant exchange of hellos and how are yous I order a Ventti Latte with a light sprinkle of cinnamon. Thank you, enjoy, and have a nice day.

Refreshment in hand I head toward the books.

Books, books and more books. Endless rows of books. The biggest bestsellers, the books everybody is reading, the must reads, the books all your friends will be talking about, are all there.

Grabbing the best bestseller from the bestseller shelf I sit down in a one-hundred and five degree cushioned chair. My elbows press against the smooth wooden arm rests, my latte seconds away from my mouth. The book cover has a sandy texture which gently rubs against my finger tips, the pages are eggshell white, the font is a pleasant twelve point Adobe Garamond.

Everything is perfect.

I love to read books.

About the author:

Besides reading and avoiding government run establishments Roman enjoys writing about how this website makes money.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Eduard - People Skills Decoded September 22, 2010, 9:42 am

    I’m definitely with you on this one. I find that most things intended for the general public don’t work very well. Particularly, in the public library closest to me, it smell funny. Really, it’s very old 😉

    • Josh Hanagarne September 22, 2010, 9:46 am

      What does it smell like? I once found a piece of bacon being used as a bookmark.

  • Boris September 22, 2010, 11:53 am

    Great – loved it!

  • Dan September 22, 2010, 12:08 pm

    Very true! Also, if a book’s been around for any length of time, some schmoe will have taken a highlighter to it or underlined what they thought was important (in pen!).

    My local library is literally a one room affair, but thanks to the internet I have a list of dozens of holds at any one time. A comfy chair or my local coffee house is where my reading gets done.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 22, 2010, 1:03 pm

      Schmoe is such a great word. I can’t read in bookstores, though. If there are people around, I look at the people.

  • Chris B September 22, 2010, 1:25 pm

    The funny thing for me is that even though I have ADD and have a really hard time filtering out distraction, sometimes I get my best reading done smack in the middle of the cafe at Borders – talking people, clicking laptop keys, irritatiing cellphone ringtones, whooshing espresso machines, and all.
    But, it’s really bad for my wallet because eventually I start to feel really guilty about all the free reading I do and I have to buy at least a couple of books or magazines to make up for it.

    • Roman September 22, 2010, 10:51 pm

      Hello Chris B,

      It is strange, I also read better with noise around me. As long as it is TV white snow type of noise then I am fine, but if I there is somebody having a discussion right beside me then I am in trouble because then I have to listen.

      As for the guilt of reading books in the store, I am guilt free. I pick a book to read for the next few weeks. I read it in the store and when I am done for the day I hide it behind books on a secluded shelf. The next day when I come to read I find my book (actually I have many scattered throughout) and continue reading. I hide my books in the store so that I use (damage) only 1 book. When I am done reading the book I buy it.

      At first the employees thought I was just some son-of-a-bitch who was loitering around reading books, and they gave me evil eye, but over time, by tactfully buying the books from the offended employees while on cashier I was able to win their respect.

      • Chris B September 23, 2010, 12:29 pm

        Roman,
        I have found the best way to avoid the “evil eye” is to:
        1. Be patient and friendly w/all the baristas and buy something to drink when you sit in the cafe
        2. Put something – no matter how little – in the tip jar every time you come in
        3. Take ALL your books and magazines before you leave and PUT THEM AWAY.
        Actually, just #3 will earn you some SERIOUS credit.

        Of course, we might not have to go thru all this stuff if the public library just had more comfortable chairs. ;p

  • Aloysa September 22, 2010, 2:51 pm

    Great post indeed. I just would like to add that fighting bums and transients do not add appeal to my public library.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 22, 2010, 3:25 pm

      Do you actually fight them? Who wins? Can we get it on PPV?

  • Stephanie Smith September 23, 2010, 4:33 pm

    Book reading is essential to my daily life. Anyone who knows me will say I ALWAYS have a book with me. Those who know me well can attest that when I am in the book zone, I am able to tune out anyone and anything. That is part of what makes it enjoyable, it is a full escape from the world. The downside to those of us avid readers is that the book ends all too soon and we are sad until we immerse ourselves in the next new story.
    I can read pretty much anywhere, however, no mountain dew nearby would be unacceptable.

  • Heather September 24, 2010, 6:53 am

    Josh, thanks for having Roman over. Roman, you need to check out Greensboro Public Library in Greensboro, NC. Comfy chairs, coffee, free wi-fi, kids in a separate space away from grown-ups (like on a whole other FLOOR) and I think they do e-book and Kindle feeds now too, or so I’ve heard. I don’t miss much about my old stompin’ grounds of the not-so-sunny, not-so-easy South, but 2 things I may end up pining for til my dying day, unless I’m able to go back–Chapel Hill/Cary (yes, the whole town, not just the UNC-CH campus) and Greensboro Public Library. I dug it so much I applied for a job there as a circulations clerk. They wouldn’t take me. I was overqualified. 🙁

  • Roman September 24, 2010, 8:01 am

    Hello Heather,

    I looked up your library. It looks like the good times might not last. The comfy chairs are costing too much and the goverment cannot afford to keep it up:

    “With the county’s funding decision made, the city now faces two choices: Begin charging out-of-town users as much as $175 per household for library cards or reducing services drastically, possibly closing a library branch by July 1.”

    Public libraries with little funding (no books, hard chairs, screaming kids) last forever. Government founded libraries that try to compete against private book stores last only as long as the government that put them there.

    Maybe I am a little harsh, but I firmly believe that the government should not be in the library business.

  • Todd September 24, 2010, 11:20 am

    I can’t read that the book stores either. Too many distractions. I still prefer to read at home where I control everything that could take my attention. My coffee kicks Starbucks ass, too boot. 🙂

  • Jim Janney September 24, 2010, 12:22 pm

    The library I go to lets you apply for
    a little card (known, oddly enough, as a
    “library card”). Once you have one of these,
    you can take books out of the library
    and read them at home or wherever you
    like. You might want to see if your
    library has a similar program.

  • Carl Nelson September 24, 2010, 1:46 pm

    Having just read this and the rebuttal I have to say I think libraries have an exceptional place in communities, not perhaps as social spots (although that depends on the size & quality of your library), but as places to dig into the deep dark reaches of knowledge that your local Barnes & Noble, Chapters or Borders will always fail at.

    Libraries may not have your bestseller or lighter reading material on hand because they are in demand, but they’ll have that novel you can’t find anymore cause it’s out of print from 1936 or they’ll find a library that will loan it to them so you can read it. They have also have huge reference sections and access to online journal subscriptions, etc. that you usually wouldn’t be willing to pay for on your own.

    Just saying, libraries are a deep diggers delight.

  • Daryle Dickens September 29, 2010, 8:36 am

    I’ll start by saying a bad library is better than no library. For many folks in the community the library provides services they would not otherwise have access to.

    And if you want a model for a 21st Century way to maintain a sustainable library system look no further than Fort Collins Colorado which is home to the Poudre River Library District. (http://www.poudrelibraries.org/) or if Twitter is your thing: http://twitter.com/PoudreLibraries. (And yes they actually keep their Twitter account up to date.

    I could actually write a whole post on how great our library system is but I’ll just hit the points that address your whining:

    1. A “Here and Now” collection for best sellers and new DVDs. They basically bring in a ton of copies and only allow a brief check out time and you are not able to put them on hold. This means you walk in and there are shelves of the books you want to read waiting for you.

    2. The kids section of the library and the adult section of the library are on separate floors.

    3. Plenty of chair options from your standard to comfy living room style chairs, cubicles to help you focus, and restaurant style booths for spreading out.

    4. A few years back they opened a coffee shop in the library that was not used enough to justify it being open. Now you can simply bring in your own coffee.

    You are probably already thinking “this won’t last.” A few years back a group of folks addressed that issue as well but creating a library distract in order to gain sustainable funding based on county property tax. Which is much smarter than depending on sales tax.

    I do see your point and I am aware that I live in a unique community. Most libraries are not able to offer the lever of service our library system does. But it is possible and we have the proof.

  • Amy January 31, 2011, 12:37 pm

    For what you pay in books & coffee at your bookstore, you could EASILY have donated a handful of comfortable chairs to your local library, and probably a decent coffee-machine, also.

    Perhaps you should check out other libraries in your area instead of generalizing the library experience based on the three libraries you’ve visited over a decade ago. Stop bashing an institution you–admittedly–have zero current knowledge of. Aren’t you embarrassed by that? You should be–it’s shameful.

    In Portage, MI the public library sells great coffee for a dollar a cup. Comfy chairs abound on the main floor, as do private (free) meeting rooms and reading rooms. The “quiet rule” is strictly enforced.

    The kids’ area is in the basement level, complete with kid-friendly computers and a gigantic play area (stocked with toys, books, trains, murals, puzzles, kid-sized tables, etc). No adults are allowed in the basement unless accompanied by a child or a librarian (to keep the pedo’s out). Kids can be as loud as they want down there without worrying about disturbing the adult section, above.

    Some libraries lack funds and donors (because people like yourself think they are better served giving money to corporations instead of investing it back into their community), but when people in a town want a nice library and are willing to help make it happen, then libraries can be everything a bookstore is–and MORE.

    I can’t imagine buying a $4 cup of coffee everyday, let alone a $20 book I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy anyway. Yes, the current, popular books aren’t readily available, but who cares if you read a book a year after it’s release date? Is it worth the $30 cover price to read a book the same time as everyone else? $30 goes a long way in my house, and we need it to buy more immediate needs than Oprah’s current book club selection.

    • Barbara Stricker March 21, 2011, 2:18 pm

      Well parried! Kudos! You certainly took time to defend public libraries, your points are well-made and I appreciate them and (clearly) agree!

  • Barbara Stricker March 21, 2011, 2:09 pm

    Cleaning up after people is so deadly dull, I know, I’ve been a mom and I am a theater manager. This is why I’m not surprised they don’t want people to imbibe & munch at the library. Can’t say as I blame them, but I must say….it would be nice if it could be so, you know, if people WEREN’T so. :p