Frugal Friday: The Marvellous Library
You’ve all heard of it, we’ve already mentioned it, but the Marvellous Library is such a great boon to any frugal nut and social equaliser, that it deserves its very own post.
The library is Amazing. In Norway, we have two different branches. Local libraries, and university libraries (there might be some private collections I am missing, but those are the ones I have experience with). The truly fantastic thing about both of these is that going to one of them is really like going to all of them.
If you live in a small town with only a small library (or a book bus, like I grew up with), you might think your access to literature is woefully limited compared to someone growing up in the city with access to a much larger library. But fear not!
Through the amazing powers of archives and databases, all local libraries are connected and liberally share books between them. In these days, you can go online and look for a book, see that it is shelved in a library on the other side of the country, and kindly ask the local library to order it for you, free of charge to you. The same system works for university libraries, and has been a lifesaver for me more than once.
Of course, if you have to order something, you do loose the added joy of browsing through the shelves and perusing the titles at your pleasure. Or what if you’re not quite sure which book you’re looking for? Your librarian comes to your aid.
Librarians are truly an amazing breed of people. I’ve never once met one that wasn’t friendly and helpful to queries. They know the databases, they know the library system, and more often than not, they also know the hiccups and particularities of the local printers. They can help you find the right keywords to search for, and they can suggest titles within a field or genre.
But it is not just information of the words-on-a-page type that the libraries offer these days. Most also have things like audiobooks, ebooks, CDs, DVDs, language courses, job searching courses, homework help, quiet work spaces and local events. More than anything, they are a cornerstone in the local community and bring people together.
As a second grader, our school took us on a field trip to the larger library in the next town. Here, they made sure all the children signed up and got their very own library card. It is difficult to fully convey the marvel I felt at the time. At home, we had one bookcase worth of books. Here, there were rows upon rows in two floors stacked high!
This library card also gave me access to the aforementioned book bus, which was an extension of this local library. The book bus was geared to children with plentyful varieties of different children’s literature in all grades and types. But the best thing of all? You could request titles, or genres, or your librarian would notice what you were taking a fancy to and suggest other books you might like.
Lately, we have been using the library to borrow DVDs. We have been watching everything from old Christmas classics to relatively new movies quite recently released on DVD. It gives us (well, Mr. E.) an excuse to go for a walk down the small hill to our closest library. Even better, using a library means that; A) We don’t have to spend money on it. B) It doesn’t fill and clutter our home, and C) Each piece of media in the library has the potential of being lent multiple times, meaning fewer are required which saves resources and the planet.
The social equaliser
If you go to any local library, you will probably see a combination of patrons, old and young, from different walks of life. In my experience though, it is usually those with less, or who currently find themselves in a disadvantaged position who represents the majority.
Bibliophilic children who don’t have that many books at home, and who can’t afford to buy any, prowl the shelves. People who were made redundant get help from the librarian to brush up on their computer skills and send out job applications. Parents bring their children in to learn about the marvels of sharing books and being careful with things that are not your own. People meet over a cup of coffee and talk in hushed voices.
Libraries admit and help people who might not otherwise have access financially to the same information. Even in this day and age where “everything” is available online, there are still those who do not have the know-how to find it. Or they do, but it is not in their language.
The librarian in the book bus when I was a child was more than just a person distributing books. She was an adult who saw me. She asked questions, she was interested. She let me browse the shelves in the small bus for what new additions had been made since the last fortnight.
And very important to me at the time, she did not look at my age when she found me books. She let me have the more difficult books, the ones without pictures or large letters. She didn’t try to tell what books were “appropriate” to my age or gender. There were no “choose between these four books” like in school. Here, the sky was the limit.
Frugal and environmental
Like so many frugal habits, using the library is also an environmental habit. It uses less resources than everyone owning their own books, many of which they rarely read. Our local library has also started lending a small array of tools for free. I think this is an amazing development, and one that we will write about when and if we test it out.
So I encourage you to visit your local library again. Try to marvel as a child might on all the possibility available within those rows and rows of books.
If you want to give back, there are often ways to volunteer at various events. For a time, I was connected to a homework help group through my local Red Cross and sat for a few hours each week helping junior high and high school students with their math and science.
As an example of what a sharing economy could bring us, I think the library is a great example. Have you visited one recently? Do you support your local libraries and their stewards, the librarians? Do you lend your personal books to friends and family?