I’ve rediscovered the library. Oh, I have loved libraries since I was a kid and have spent a large chunk of my adult life working in them. As a new parent I took my kids to storyhours and flooded them with library books. Now they are at that awkward in between stage where they’ve outgrown storyhours but aren’t old enough for much of the library programming that intrigues them. I spend time in their school library now, and it’s a really great place.
But I have rarely gone for myself since I became a parent. My community’s library has an amazing first floor children’s department, but I have to take an elevator up to the adult stacks. The few times I have been up there it’s been kind of dusty and I’ve had difficulty finding what I want. I have a card for the Indianapolis library system, but the nearest library there is still a 20 minute drive for me. With ereaders at hand, I have not felt that I have a lack of reading materials. It’s very easy to get a book I want when I want it, so why cause inconvenience?
Yet I noticed my list of books I wanted to read, or thought I should read, or wanted to try, was getting longer and longer. I didn’t want to pay full price for books I might only read once that would take up the limited space that I have for my very favorite books. And so I gave up the convenience of my ereader and headed to the library, where I had a stack of holds waiting.
Now, there are two ways you can approach turning in your books or picking up holds. The first is the targeted approach– you are there to do one thing and that’s it. When you have lots to do or little kids waiting this is the way to go. The second is the “since I’m here, I’ll just look around” approach. Clever library pages display intriguing titles on the tops of shelves. Maybe I decide to see if there’s a particular title that I want that I just thought of (chances are slim, but I did find A Grief Observed this way) or to see if any books by an author I like are on the shelf. And just walking down the aisles of books chances are I will discover something that looks interesting enough to take home. Probably several things.
Which is how I ended up going to the library yesterday to collect holds of Station Eleven by Emily St. James Mandel; Get in Trouble by Kelly Link; and Waistcoaats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger, and also ended up with one of Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond paranormal mysteries (these are FUNNY– in one of them, Esther plays a Jewish departments store elf named Dreidel); an update of Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid; two Discworld novels; and a book that I am not familiar with by Mark Haddon (author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time).
This library also does something that I think is rather unusual– it puts new nonfiction up front. Typically, I would expect new fiction to be in front, but the effect this has on me is that I pick up and read nonfiction that I would never seek out on my own. I’m working my way through The Republic of Imagination by Azar Nafisi, and she almost has me convinced to go back and read books I haven’t touched since high school.
What neither my community library or this library does is separate horror out from general fiction. They do try to pull the science-fiction and fantasy books together in one location, and you might find something there that will rock your socks off, depending on your definition of horror (one of Booklist’s editors named John Scalzi’s Lock-In as one of the top ten horror novels of 2014– I love John Scalzi, but I think that’s a stretch). So you may be in this same situation where you can’t find what you want without putting it on hold or having a librarian lead you to a specific title… but don’t limit yourself. You aren’t buying a book– you’re trying out something new. Don’t like it? Put it down. But with a visit to the library where you can take your time, try wandering the stacks, looking through the books, and seeing what out there, that you might not normally read, looks like it’s worth trying. For me, it’s like falling in love all over again.