Why libraries still matter


Many people already know this about me, but a few years back, when my son was still very small, his mother was injured in an accident. Without going into details, she couldn’t work and we had huge medical bills to deal with. At the same time, my little boy–who had started reading at two–was becoming a voracious reader.

The picture books he loved were expensive. Like, brutally expensive for a guy who couldn’t even cover the bills for his wife’s surgery.

The library saved us. There were so many books to choose from and the staff were so wonderful in helping us find things we liked, that my son was able to keep reading and learning. This past year, times have been a little tight for us again, so I’ve been leaning pretty heavily on our local branch. I’ve been bringing home Lemony Snicket, Scott Westerfeld, Diane Duane, Catherine Jinks, Jeanne Birdsall, and Cory Doctorow–frankly, with the way he reads, it’s a pretty good workout. What’s more, the books he discovers are the library help us make smart choices when we do hit the local bookshop.

We couldn’t afford to buy all those books on our own and we’re grateful to live in a community that buys them for everyone to share. That’s why I can’t help but shake my head at misguided authors who think borrowed books are lost sales. Library borrowing drives sales. Well, it drives ours, anyway. Without our local system (which is excellent, btw) we’d rely on garage sales and used book stores. We’d buy and read less, and there’d still be no extra royalties for Mr. Successful Author.

Still, I wish I could get a piece of that Public Lending Rights action. Get paid every time a book was borrowed? How civilized.