When we were working we used to spend a lot of money on books, to the point where our house was over-run with books. This isn’t something I regret as having access to reading, books and knowledge is an important part of a child’s development. It was not unusual for us to buy 3 or 4 books a week, either new or second hand from half price books.
One of the areas we tightened up on was our book buying habit (obsession?). Which means our making much more use of our local library.
Looking at our property tax statement for this year we are paying $284 in taxes towards upkeep of the Multnomah County Library service. When put like that it sounds like a lot but for that we are getting a lot of good value we feel.
Firstly we have access to 22 libraries across the city. I haven’t compared with other cities, but it seems like a lot of libraries for a city this size. And all the ones we have visited have been clean, modern and welcoming so we have been very happy with the buildings. The central library itself was founded in 1864 and the building itself dates back to 1913.
The libraries themselves all have a good selection of facilities including internet terminals and quiet rooms. Historically they have also been places for the homeless population to find respite; Portland has a huge homeless problem and I think the libraries have tried to be accommodating. Personally we haven’t seen any issues in any libraries we have been to, but I guess there have been incidents and the city has just changed the rules on what you can and cant do in the library to discourage the homeless.
One thing we very much like is the libraries are open seven days a week, which is unusual. I don’t think we have lived somewhere where they are open on Sundays. We have also found the online system for reserving and renewing books works well and is intuitive; with so many locations in the system it is often easier to reserve and ship the book to our home library rather than trawling all over the city looking for volumes.
My son especially like picking up graphic novels, and as he often checks out 10 or more of these at a time and is often done with them in a couple of days it is just not practical or economical to buy these.
Some planning is obviously required if you want to borrow the latest blockbusters as if you wait until they are out you will often find yourself at position 300 on the reserve list; so even if the system has 50 copies you will be waiting several months to get them. So if you know something is coming out you want to read you need to jump on it quick! Alternatively you might get lucky, the library has a limited number of copies of recent popular books that you can’t reserve and they just sit out on a special “Lucky Day” shelf for anyone to take out.
In general we are now at the point that if anyone in the family wants a new book we discuss whether it is something we want to own or whether we are better off getting from the library. Of course that doesn’t stop us from spend many hours in Powells!
Do you use your local library? If not, why not?