09 February 2005

Bookstore v. Library

Update: MFS reminded me of this post about the joy of having books around. If I ever start to think libraries are the only way to go, I'll just have to pop over to the un-blog and get my priorities back in line.
I've seen discussions in several places on the merits of bookstores and libraries. Usually the discussants have definite opinions on which is better. I used to be a bookstore lover. I'd rarely check books out. Then we went to law school. Law school meant no money and a small apartment. But it did mean that I could check books out from the university library for a semester at a time. I started to check out stacks of books and load the stroller with them (I'd like to point out that I had a just-turned-three-year-old and a one-year-old when we graduated, so don't whine at me about not having enough time to read).

Anyway, we moved to Boise after law school. We had more space and more money, but the public library system turned out to be surprisingly good. Who would have thought Boise would be great? I could request books from 10 libraries all over the valley, and they'd deliver them to my local branch. I did start buying more books, but I checked out far more.

Then we moved here. Back to a small house and little money, but I can get any book I want through ILL. I do still spend every extra penny on books, but I've lost some of my desire to buy books- the library has become good enough. I can't decide if I'm happy with this (my husband certainly is), but I think it works for now.

I still love to buy books. I love to have a good book on hand if I need it. But right now, despite the many bookcases in our house (including the kitchen), there just isn't space. Far more than half my books are languishing and lonely in the garage. There is a post I've been wanting to write, but I can't since the book I need is boxed up in the garage and that book is also checked out from the university library.

I love that I can preread a book before I spend money on it. I love owning good books. MFS had a lovely post about why she loves to own books. Someday, we will have space and bookcases for a library like this. There are so many good things about bookstores and libraries. I guess I'm mostly glad that there are two good options- the library for the cheapos like me and the bookstore for all you extravagant ones- and I can get the benefits of both.


  1. I actually considered posting about this very thing today on my blog. I had looked at MFS's pictures of bookcases and was thinking, should we be buying more books?

    We have a good number of books, but compared to what we read, it's nothing. I've been reading 3-4 books a week, and as a subscriber of the Tightwad Gazette (ok, I checked out the books at the library) can't imagine the kind of money that goes into a really large library.

    BUT... growing up we had a huge library at home. I remember lazily going through our bookcases at home, finding some random book to read.

  2. I checked the Tightwad Gazette out of the library too. :)

    I really do think books are worth buying- especially when there are children around. There's nothing like having lots of books around.

    And when we have more money, I'll continue to wear old clothes and sit on old furniture and buy more books.

  3. Amira --

    Thanks for the nod and the kind words. These posts might tickle your urge to own, too (*wry grin*):



    To be perfectly clear, we are the sort who gently nurse the twenty-year old couch through another relocation ("There, there. A little lemon oil and you'll be fine. Tighten the bolts. Wash the cushion covers in Woolite. All better, no? Let's buy more books!") and dry clean years-old winter coats ("Wonderful! Isn't that why we bought these styles? Classics. To last forever. Let's buy more books!") and patch overalls ("That's not mending --- that's giving them character. More books, anyone?") and coddle the family vehicle ("It's okay, Zoe. Oil change, carwash, new tire. Don't you feel new again? I thought so. To Borders, old girl. Careful with the brakes, there.").

    For what it's worth, we had some of the finest libraries available to us in Chicago, and we actually use our town's tiny public library more than we ever used any library in the city. Why? They can get anything we need --- films, new titles, obscure texts. The reference librarians appreciate the new challenges, and the interlibrary loan process (which was fraught with tension and bureaucratic nonsense in the city) is almost too simple here.

    Thanks again for the nod.

    MFS (Melissa)