My breakup letter to my library

Dear library,

It was love at first sight, you and me.  When I got my first card, I saw you as much as I could and drank the fruits you offered me with gusto. I plumbed the depths of your shelves and learned about everything from psychology to how to deliver the best knock-knock jokes.  In your warm, bookish halls, I discovered Jane Austen and Leo Tolstoy and countless other authors whom I now count as friends to my heart.

But the relationship was built on rocky ground.  And like an addicted, co-dependent lover… it’s taken me a long time to admit that.  First were the overdue fees.  In some cities, the fees were forgiven once the errant book was finally discovered and retrieved from under a bed.  In other cities, the seemingly innocuous 25 cents a day grows into a beast of terrifying proportions when I would check out 30 books at a time.  My yearly expenses in overdue fees could be better spent on purchasing a few new, superb books a year!

The second, red flag came when you decided to cheat on me. See, this whole time, I thought you were an exclusive lover.  I thought you felt the same way as me in building up the community and serving the greater good.  Instead, you’ve sold out under to thinly veiled disguise of “freedom” and “privacy” by allowing and accommodating for pornography to be viewed on your computers—and with my tax dollars to boot. Your beauty was then marred and I could no longer support your levies.  What’s more, I felt unsafe with you anymore. My children can not be allowed alone with you… lest they wander unsuspectingly into the computer area where you are waiting to annihilate their innocence.  You’ve betrayed me here.  And I don’t think you realize this, but you’ve betrayed our community too.  Lastly and most ironically: by accommodating porn on your public computers… you’ve betrayed authentic human freedom too.

Then something really tipped me over the edge, though I admit it is worse in other cities I’ve been in than my current one. You had to change with the times. As traditional books in printed form become more obsolete, you became no longer a keeper of the printed word, but a community center for informational learning and technology.  That’s fine in and of itself… but not the qualities I’m looking for in a long-term relationship. See, I wanted to bring my children to the library to read books… not to traipse them past kiddy computers with Dora the Explorer beckoning like a siren to come learn phonics with her.  So my trips to go immerse the children in a literary heaven has turned into an exhausting battle leaving mother frustrated and child unsatisfied.  Glittering figures on the screen will always tempt children more than ink on paper… this doesn’t mean it’s good, right or needed.  So much for building lifelong readers with your help.

Lastly, I wanted to tell you that part of this breakup is not you. It’s me.  I take responsibility for us going separate ways on two counts: First of all, we can’t handle your delicacies. I have six children now and try as I might to be a good book steward and to treat proper respect for books, they still get eaten, trampled, torn, painted in and otherwise ruined.  More money down the drain.  It’s draining on me.  The second problem is directly related to the first:  while I am constantly hunting and wanting to find the next great title or to discover old gems previously unknown to me… the onus of these desires causes a total dilution of goodness in the minds of my children. And I suspect that so many books become casualties in our home because we are SWIMMING in books here.  So a reverence is lost in this I think…

Ultimately it becomes a problem each month as I rotate out our monthly baskets of books.  And I silently sigh in disappointment that not ONCE was The Brave Cowboy or Roxaboxen pulled out that month and we wouldn’t see them again until next year.

Well, I won’t tolerate that anymore!  I’ve taken a lot of time, effort and money to build a lovely little library of books for our home and I’m sick of it getting ignored in favor of your deluge of books.  Sure you offer great books.  I don’t deny it!  And sure, my kids won’t get to experience every single excellent title in the world… (I’ve slowly come to admit my daftness in expecting that to be so!)  But, I want them to remember the great books on MY shelves. And I want them to delight in discovering them again and again. There is a joy and value and security in this repetition.  Furthermore, this makes the joy of GIVING books all the more valuable once the constant novelty of library books are no more.

So yeah.  I think we need to take a break for a while.  Maybe a long while.  I’ll still order some reference things for myself on occasion maybe… but I think ultimately for my particular family, we are better off going our separate ways.  And that’s going to hurt.  And  it’s going to take some sacrifice.  And it may deaden this blog… but I was never in this for traffic stats anyway.  I have to admit that it’s time to let the mediocre— even the GOOD— fall by the wayside.  I don’t have the time, tolerance, money or interest for anything less than a few quality choices in excellence anyway.

Take care,



2 thoughts on “My breakup letter to my library

  1. Kelly

    I have felt many of these same things, Ellie, so I understand. We occasionally take out books that I have reserved ahead of time, because I simply dislike so much of what is on the shelf compared to what we have at home. I have poured nearly every extra cent I have to buy great books and have them at home. It is very difficult to take the kids into the candy store and tell them they can only have an apple, even if it's a honeycrisp.

    I think it's especially sad for those of us who grew up on the library but I think you will be happier in the long run!

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