Recently on US public broadcasting, they've started showing a new Ken Burns documentary called "The National Parks: America's Best Idea." Watching it made me think about other great ideas that America has had, and the one that seemed the best in my mind is the public library system.
Cupcake thinks the Portland Public Library card is good enough to eat!
Sure it has its quirks and downsides (nowadays, with funding cut for many towns, libraries can only afford to be open a few days a week. It's 5 days a week here in Portland, but I know in smaller towns, it may be just 2-3 days a week), but how awesome is it that you can sign up for a library card FOR FREE, and then take books, CDs, DVDs, videos, etc. that you want to read home for 1-3 weeks FOR FREE, or spend hours using their wireless internet (or if you don't have a laptop, you can sign up to use their computers with internet access) FOR FREE! Oh, and if they don't have a book that you want, you can request it from another library and they will deliver it to your library FOR FREE (unless it has to come from out of state. Then there's a fee of a few dollars, but still!)!!! Isn't that great?!?
Now I will admit that libraries are paid for by the community's taxes, so they are not truly free, but what we receive from them vastly outweighs what I pay every year in taxes. If it weren't for the library, I'd be paying between $6-40 apiece for the books I take out. I'm always amazed by how quickly libraries get the new and popular books. In many cases, I'll be able to read the book within a few weeks of it coming out! For example, this book: The Plum Pudding Murder came out on September 29th. I requested it on the 30th; it was ready for me to pick up on the 2nd of October! Talk about fast! There's $24.00 that I didn't have to spend at the bookstore!
Cupcake with three of my most recent library books: the "just published" one, the "I'd love to learn about this for free" one, and the "this author sounds interesting. I'll try him" one!
And being able to browse through such a large selection just gives me endless possibilities! I recently picked up a book on wireworking! Would I have ever bought a book on wireworking without knowing if I liked it? No! But since I can get it for free, why not? Or being able to try out authors before purchasing their books! Fabulous! I can't count the number of authors that I first found out that I loved through the local library and now I've purchased quite a number of their books (libraries are great PR)!
I guess I've rambled on enough about how great libraries are. Yes, there are people who will complain about the limited hours, the number of homeless people who use them (to which I have to say, "deal with it. As long as they're not using the library to sleep, they have as much of a right to use it as you do. And I've dealt with libraries filled with LOTS of homeless people in Boston), how they don't have every book that you want, but nothing's perfect! So if you love your library, consider giving a small donation to them every now and then. Trust me, you'll get everything you put into it back tenfold!