This is not a new revelation to me. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I remember begging my mother to let me get a library card for my birthday. To this day I don’t know for sure why she said no, but there was also a time in my childhood where I was limited by parental rule to no more than 2 hours of reading a day. My parents were firm believers that kids belonged outside playing in the fresh air, I guess. Jokes on them, though, since I found a tree in a wooded area just out of sight of our house with two easily-reached branches that I could use like a recliner, and I spent many a day up in that tree reading books I’d smuggled out of the house.
However, there came a time in my adolescence when I discovered Chapters (now Indigo), and my life changed forever. First of all, it cemented the idea that I’d never live in a town small enough that it didn’t have a bookstore like that, a choice I still maintain. Second, large portions of my babysitting money started disappearing while books started piling up around my room. I had my first Billy bookshelf filled by the time I was done high school, and I was just getting started.
I still frequented libraries, since I always read voraciously and never had the money to buy everything I read, but I still collected more and more. I started keeping a spreadsheet with all the titles and their replacement values for insurance reasons. I gave that up a few years ago due to sheer laziness, but at last count there was a replacement value of about $12,000 to that collection.
Even when I was living fairly frugally in my 20s and entering my 30s, new books still made it into the house. In the last couple years as my husband and I started earning more money, the amount I spent on books skyrocketed. It was so easy to justify. They’re books! The fount of human knowledge! Most purchases were hardcover, since I didn’t want to wait 3+ months for the softcovers to come out. I remember being shocked at one credit card bill that had $300 in book purchases alone. My library visits grew less and less frequent (and every move grew more and more painful).
However, since my resolve to cut out all unbudgeted and unplanned spending, I’ve reacquainted myself with the local library. Things have changed, and I’m reminded again how amazing they are. Can you imagine if they didn’t exist, and in this day and age people petitioned the government to create a system where unlimited books, movies, music, research materials, historical records, and more? Oh, and it should be publicly funded and cost nothing to anyone who wants to use it. I don’t think there is a chance that it would get off the ground. And yet we have just that!
Every few weeks I go down my goodreads list of “To Read” books, log in to the library website, and order half a dozen titles. Within a few days, I get emails telling me that they’re in at my local branch. All I have to do is walk in, grab them from a shelf, use the self-checkout, and go. My local library even has an ebook lending system with an app for my phone. I can open it at anytime and peruse thousands of titles that I can read right away, and order the ones with a wait list.
Goodreads says that in the last 3 months, I’ve read 18 books. Of those, I’ve bought none. If I had, judging by average prices, I would have spent a minimum of $230, and possibly up to $600. And I got them all for free.
How amazing is that?