How I Get Books: Libraries

In this first installment of How I Get Books, I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the different libraries in my life.

There are four main types of libraries that I get books from.  Public libraries, the university library, the church library, and school libraries.

Public Libraries

Let’s talk about public libraries first.  By public libraries I mean a community owned, run, and funded library open to the general public.  We belong to our local library, and membership there gets us access to a few other libraries in our area.  There are three that we use fairly often and stop at every few weeks.  I’m also able to place holds on items in that network and have them sent to whichever library we plan to stop at.

Our local public library also comes with access to ebooks (which I don’t currently use that much), audiobooks, and other media.  It involves newspaper subscriptions and educational services.  They also do free or low-cost classes on various topics and run reading initiatives over the summer for both children and adults.  I love our library and am so grateful we live in an area that provides these services to all residents.  We do not pay a fee to be members of our library and I was actually shocked to learn that some places charge!  We do, however, pay a good amount of late fines – all to support the library, of course.

Besides our local public library, I actually have memberships to two other libraries.  They are both in areas that we travel to often.  At one library we have very similar access to our home library, but there are some limitations because we aren’t permanent residents.  The limitations mostly apply to the e-resources and also if we request a book, a local could bump our request down.  If our children chose to participate in their summer reading program, we would receive lower prizes.

At the other public library, I had to pay a nominal fee.  That fee grants me access to the library resources for several years!  There are again some limitations, but that library has a huge collection, including many children’s books.  In fact, as this is being written I am planning a road trip based entirely on being able to visit that library and have time to view some rare diverse children’s literature.

Besides these three public libraries, we’ve also used dozens of other public libraries across America.  Whenever we are in a place for more than a few days in our travels, checking out the library is a must-do.  Using library wi-fi to blog, email, and download shows we want to watch or books we want to read helps keep our travel costs lower.  The children are at least mildly entertained by seeing different libraries and checking for their favorite books.

Both personally and professionally, I find that the state of the local library can tell you a good deal about a place.  Is it outdated, frustrating, or dirty?  What local books or authors are promoted?  Do they have graphic novels or a board game collection?  If the librarians seem friendly and knowledgeable, I always try to ask them for recommendations.

University/College Library

Technically I have a membership at two of these but I only use the one that has a better collection.  After you’ve graduated many schools have an alumni program that allows you to continue having access to the library.  Sometimes this is automatic, other times you have to ask.  A few academic libraries allow “community users” as a public service or for a small fee.  It’s always worth asking at any schools that may be close to you.

I really appreciate still being able to access my college library, but I do get a bit frustrated by the holds and recalls and variable due dates.  Given a choice, it’s usually easier to get something from the public library system if it’s available there.  When an item is recalled, that means an extra trip out to the school, so using this library requires more planning.  However, the university library has a lot of scholarly works and articles that simply aren’t in the public system.  They also have many older books which are helpful for me to refer to, and textbooks which are expensive to access otherwise.

We get the most use from this library during the summer months or winter vacation, when students and professors are not using the library as much.  They have been very kind about allowing me to bring my older children in while I browse as well.

Church Library

Our church has a library.  I realize that is not true of all churches even within our religious group.  We are incredibly lucky to have a good church library and have access to a wide variety of religious books including diverse books.  Over the past few years (and I sometimes wonder if conversations I’ve had influenced this) the church library has gotten much more diverse and the organizers have started stocking interesting newer releases and a wider variety of books.

One real boon of the church library is that you are allowed to keep books as long as needed.  They also tend to have fewer markings compared to other library books.  That is part of the reason that my reviews of Christian books have increased so much over the past year.

One disadvantage is that the books are all religious, this library does not offer a variety of perspectives.  Another disadvantage is that hours are limited.  You can only check out and return around the time of services or church events.  While it is somewhat self-serviced, if the organizers are ill or otherwise busy, the process can take a long time.  Also, while I enjoy being able to keep a book as long as I want, it’s less fun waiting a long time for a book someone else has.

Despite these limitations, we really enjoy this library and use it to easily access books that would be more difficult to get through any of the other libraries.

School Libraries

This used to be both more complicated and simpler when I was a school librarian.  It was simple in that I had an administrator account with a long borrowing time and was able to check out whatever I wanted whenever I was at work.  However, it was complicated in that I had to remember which library I borrowed each item from and return it to the right place at the right time.  Usually my trunk was just filled with books!

Now that I have chosen a different career path, my children still have access to school libraries.  While this is not the same because they are choosing the books, not me, they do still sometimes bring home diverse books.  However, I review fewer books this way because most school libraries only loan books for a week or two.  That is a pretty fast turn-around, especially if the book needs to be photographed.

Personal Libraries

Another less-used category is the personal libraries of individuals.  I still have many friends in education who sometimes loan me books from their classroom libraries or professional development collections.  Or other friends who are simply willing to share their own book collections with me.  However, I actually prefer to borrow books from libraries over individuals most of the time.  That’s because personal books are so easily mixed into our family’s collection.  I worry a lot about remembering to return them in a timely manner and good condition.

Other Libraries

Hospitals, law firms, non-profit organizations, and sometimes other groups might also have libraries for employees or customers.  If you are polite and express knowledge or interest in their subject they may be willing to grant access or membership to you.  Sometimes private clubs also have libraries, but you typically have to pay to access those.


Having access to all these wonderful libraries is a great gift!  Between the four types of libraries, if I really want a book, there’s usually some way I can get it besides buying.  Reminding myself that so many books are so accessible has helped my destashing goals.  Of course, I also access literature in other ways too, and I’ll be talking about that in the next How I Get Books.

How about you?  Do you have access to a local library and if so, what is it like?  If not, what sort of library access do you dream of the most?

Author: colorfulbookreviews

I work in a library by day and parent the rest of the time. I am passionate about good books representing the full spectrum of human diversity for every age group and reading level. This blog is my attempt to help parents, educators, and librarians find the best children's books authored by or featuring characters of color.

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