Monday, March 28, 2016

Libraries: A Bibliophile Faces Her Minimalism

“You can never get a cup of tea big enough, or a book long enough for me.” 
C.S. Lewis
My current stack of library books (top shelf) my journals bottom shelf

                When I was young, we went to the library on a regular basis. The summers were particularly lovely because we could walk to the library in our neighborhood any time we wanted. I loved libraries then, and I still love them. I love the rows and rows of books. I love the chairs tucked into corners for reading. I love the dense hush of a library. It was my favorite place in college to escape.

                As I grew older I thought that it would be nice to own ever book I needed to read or wanted to read. I blame college. I loved books so much I thought I needed to own them all. I traded my lovely afternoons in the library for afternoons perusing bookstores. I emptied my wallet of all its extra money on a regular basis. At the height of my book buying I probably had over 1,000 books, maybe more because I never really counted them. I just know that when I moved, I would have boxes and boxes and boxes and boxes of books to haul to my next destination.
                When I started reading The Minimalists, I read an article by Joshua Fields Milburn titled “I Got Rid of 2,000 Books and Started Reading More."  In the article he shared that within a week he had sold or donated 98% of all his books. When I first read that a few years ago, I balked. No way. I’ve given up a lot, but I am not giving up my books. And besides, I’m a writer. What kind of Karma is that to no longer buy books? If I want people to buy my books; don’t I have to buy theirs? Wasn’t it part of my writerly duty to be buying books?

                That was 5 years ago, but I have had an epiphany.

                I never owned books when I was younger, but it didn’t stop me from reading – a lot. I remembered all the books I hauled home from my childhood library and from my college library. I remembered all the books I brought home when I was a young mom so I could learn to knit, can food, sew better, learn to make teddy bears and raise my kids.  I started to think about how libraries continue to run, with our tax dollars (in many communities) or through membership fees (in some places), and also because people donate money to them, so they can buy books.
                This solved my Karma dilemma, which said I had to buy books in order to keep the flow moving. I could donate to my library the money that I would use to buy books, and in that way meet my obligation to buy other writers’ books. This also spreads the joy of reading to others, who perhaps without the library would not have access to the books, CDs and DVDs, newspapers, magazines, and all the other services libraries offer communities. Additionally,  I could also satisfy my desire to own less. I could clean out the last of my lingering books that are piled on the floor in my studio and feel o.k. about it, because I was donating to the place where I was going to get my books from now on: my local library.
                I use my local library regularly – it is still one of my favorite places. My desire to own fewer things continues to come from a place where I feel more creative and peaceful in a home with minimal possessions. I am so happy to have made this discovery, and I’m packing up books and letting go of more books this week. And the next time I want to go on a book buying binge, I’m going to write a check to my local library.

What I’m reading: The Forgotten Room, Karen White, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig; Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott, and Moonlight Over Paris Jennifer Robson. 

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