Since I purchased my first e-reader I’ve rarely darkened the doors of my local library. Before yesterday, it had been three years. Three! With the onslaught of inexpensive or free e-books and lots of Barnes & Noble gift cards, it’s just been easier to buy rather than borrow. But, on a whim (and search for a local book club), I drove over to the county library.
What a colossal disappointment. First, you’d think that a library would be a haven of book clubs, wouldn’t you? I certainly did, but was unpleasantly surprised to find that my library had just one and their current book was an essay. (An essay? Seriously?) Next, I headed upstairs to the fiction section which was really nothing more than a museum of books well past their publication dates. As my favorite genre at the moment is New Adult, I was on a mission to check out a few authors that I wasn’t willing to risk my cash on…but when I asked the librarian whether there was a New Adult section she directed me over to the newly published section, you know, for books that are new.
Call me crazy, but if I were a librarian, I’d at least spend some time learning what people are reading or what’s hot in the publishing world.
*edited to add: in fairness to the librarian, while she wasn’t hip on New Adult, she was extremely helpful otherwise, going out of her way to research book clubs and answer all the questions I had*
Regardless, I set out on my own to look through the fiction section and found…nothing. Not one single NA book. Or books from smaller publishing houses. Or anything that wasn’t already on my grandmother’s reading list (and she died almost 9 years ago). I felt that I was looking at a giant, dusty cliché of books. I could almost hear the shelves (which I imagined wearing pink velour track suits) calling out to me:
“Look, I have Sandra Brown and Nora Roberts! Don’t you want to be my friend?”
Pretty much, no.
Always the optimist (no laughing from those that know me, please) I managed to pull a few books, dropping them into my basket before heading over to the teen section. Yes, I felt like a complete perv, standing under the sign that glared “TEEN” in big letters while the people around me side-eyed me. The selection there was better (Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, hello!) with books by Lauren Oliver and Maggie Stiefvater, but most trilogies or series had just one book available, and naturally it was the second or third, never the first book in the series.
So, are libraries obsolete? Has the popularity and convenience of e-books and programs like Kindle Unlimited put libraries out of business? Based on what I saw yesterday, yes. Even when it comes to research, with the internet at our disposal (at least for now), we don’t even need to leave the comfort of our homes. Sure, there was a young mother with a stack of books for her little girl, but six-year-olds will read the same book a thousand times, so they pretty much don’t care if it was published in the last century. And, yes, if you like classics, there are five copies of The Catcher in the Rye waiting patiently for you. But, for the reader looking for what’s new or popular, the choices are limited unless you’re willing to place your name on a waiting list with a hundred other people for the one copy of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr or Caroline Kepnes You.
What, if any, have your recent library experiences been like?