Nfld. & Labrador·Books

Get over yourself and start using the public library

Stephanie Tobin loves the public library, just not how empty it often is.

It's Love Our Local Authors month — so why not love your local library?

Stacey Lucas, supervisor, and Jan Moffett, library technician, at the Michael Donovan Library. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

Full disclosure: I love the public library.

Specifically, the one in my neighbourhood — the Michael Donovan Public Library — but of course, just in general, the library.

What I do not love about the library is how empty it often is.

The Michael Donovan Public Library is next to Ches's Fish and Chips on Topsail Road in St. John's, next to Tim Hortons. Through the walls, you can often hear the sound of the french fry slicer hard at work. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

Sure, the library offers ebook checkouts, and you can take out a virtual book — for free, like everything at the library — so fewer people need to physically walk into a branch. 

But there is such a treasure trove of things accessible in the Newfoundland and Labrador Public Library system that people should really know about.

For Love Our Local Authors, you can grab a blind date with a book written by a Newfoundland and Labrador author at your local library. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

In just the first 14 days of January 2018 alone, the library saved me nearly $120 — before taxes. (If I keep this pattern all year, it will add up to over $2,500 saved.)

Here are those four books and a new release movie that I just couldn't financially justify seeing in theatres and isn't on Netflix.

Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series it utterly charming and addictive. I encourage you to try it before the 9th book in the series comes out later this year. I also borrowed Laline Paul's The Bees, Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Oscar-nominated Baby Driver from the library in the first two weeks of 2018. (CBC Graphics)

In an economy where every penny counts, that's a lot of money saved.

I've put my name on the waiting list for eight on-order items, some of which aren't even published yet. I'm also on the wait list for a free "paint and tea" session, one of the many free events offered at public libraries. 

Once, the only available library copy of a book I wanted to read was at the branch in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. The library sent it down at no cost to me.

A graphic novel book club kit? Why not. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

And in talking about this piece, I've convinced two people (so far) at work to sign up for a library card (which you can do from any computer, by the way — you don't need to go to an actual library).

So, yeah, I love the library. And I want to know why more people don't.

What's not to love? 

It could be that people don't realize how much the library has to offer. Could it really be so simple?

Personally, I'm not really into ebooks — I like physically turning pages of paper — so I'm always requesting and checking out books. But, since I don't have cable and can't afford going to the movies all the time and Jumbo Video has closed, I also borrow movies and TV shows. All for free.

If you need a little Leslie Knope inspiration, every season of Parks and Recreation is available for borrowing at the library. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

There have been a few times I've gone over the three-week borrowing period and forgot to renew my loan (which you can do on the library website in a few clicks), so I have incurred some overdue fees.

At 15 cents a day (and a $5 maximum fine), it's really not breaking the bank.

Accessible to all

There are also audiobooks, children's books and large-print books.

There is a multi-lingual section of the library for people who are non-English speaking. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

They have magazine and newspaper subscriptions. You can use the internet at the library, or borrow book club reading kits. They have Japanese manga, graphic novels and comics, as well as talking books; descriptive and closed captioned video, and multi-language services. There's also an archive system with technicians to help you navigate it.

And in the western and Labrador parts of the province, they do books by mail (by application) for people who can't physically get to a library.

It's all about accessibility — making sure no one in our society is left out in the cold and unable to access knowledge.

Having fun really isn't hard when you have a library card

Honestly, this doesn't even cover half of the things you can do at the library.

Admittedly, navigating the NLPL website is not easy for anyone new to it — and actually going into the online catalogue to search and/or request something can be a pain. The website is outdated and not particularly user-friendly.

But, if you call or walk into the library (at least, the Michael Donovan one) and ask someone to show you how to use their website, they will happily show you.

In defence of public libraries

There are always going to be books you'll want to purchase. There's nothing wrong with spending some cash on a good book and supporting authors.

At least for myself, the library lets me pick up a book I'm not sure about, but want to read it without having to compromise my (let's face it, near non-existent) financial plan.

A couple of people perusing the shelves at the Michael Donovan Public Library in St. John's. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)

If I read the book and know that I'll re-read it, or think it would be a great gift for someone else, then I'll buy it. Or sometimes there's just a really good sale on and I can't help myself. Or I literally judge a book by its cover and splurge.

But the library is an undervalued, underfunded, underrated community gem that deserves your attention and patronage.

And you deserve it.

Terri-Lynn Rendell reads with Layla and Gemma Budden at the AC Hunter Children's Library. (Stephanie Tobin/CBC)