I love the library. It’s one of my favorite places to visits. I have felt this way as long as I can remember. Just thinking about Library day in elementary school still makes my stomach flutter. Lining up to make that trip across school, nothing was better. The first week of summer vacation always included a trip to the public library to sign up for the summer reading program and check out a huge stack of brightly colored possibilities. (I still base much of my interest in a book on the color. I know. I know. Don’t judge a book by its blah, blah, blah.) If I’ve lived in a city more than six months, I’ve had a library card. That’s seven cities in four states.
My love of libraries sounds like a huge money saver. Books are expensive and libraries are free, right? Well it depends. I have been in an abusive relationship with the library for years. I never return books on time and I always owe money. Always. I’ve become creative in the ways I feed this addiction. Anything from using other family members’ cards to check out books because my account was over the fee limit, to finding out different fee loopholes for every city so I could pay as little as possible and still get my fix. I could always justify these fees because the max fee per book, different for every city, was always less than the cost of actually purchasing the book. (Unless you loose the book and have to pay the replacement fee. This has happened more than once.) My husband says “That’s not the point. The library is suppose to be FREE.” But how could he understand how it feels. I don’t think he’s ever even had a library card.
Even though I still get a heart flutter as I walk in, the library has changed. The max fee for an overdue book has increased from a dollar, to an out-of-control five dollars PER BOOK. Let me do the math for you. Keeping 6 books for months or even years (it’s happened) past the due date, used to cost six dollars, but now it’s 30 dollars. That’s not all they’ve changed. When I was younger VHS tapes (if you don’t know what that is, ask someone old) were free to check out, so were cassettes and CDs. Not any more. They now charge a fee to take home a movie or a CD set. And we’ve all heard about the woman who was arrested for failing to pay her library fees.
The first step is admitting you have a problem. Well, I have a problem. The library is costing me sneaky dollars. I don’t like spending money I didn’t expect to spend. Yes, five dollars is less than a full price book, but the bookstore is not the only other option. Garage sales and Goodwill are good places to pick up paperbacks for a steal. If I have a certain book I really want to read, I’ll let my husband know. He has always been able to find a deal on EBay.
I have to tell you about my new favorite store: Mr. K’s Used Books, Music and More. (www.mrksonline.com) I don’t have room for stacks of novels and cheap paperbacks. Mr. K’s will buy used books for store credit or cash! I took in a box of about 15 books and earned 10 dollars in credit and 14 dollars in cash. They have a huge selection of books. (As big as a library.) I easily find three books to purchase with part of my credit and I take the rest with me for next time.
I can’t say I’ve given up the library completely, but I have changed the way I use it. And I know one happy day I’ll walk my son into the library and sign him up for the summer reading program. Dreaming of this day give me hope during these lonely times. Maybe one day I’ll be strong enough to have my own yellow library card again, too.