I got my first library card when I was five years old. That is the earliest you can get one in my neck of the woods. My mother was good like that :-) I remember being so excited that I could finally check out books with my own name. Also, how about a shout out for libraries around the nation that have amazing sections for kids, which don't only have amazing books at every reading level, but adventurous and comfy places to curl up and read them. Some of my fondest memories of the library are from back in those days.
Anyway, I've always loved to read, and all of my books came from the library when I was growing up. I don't think it actually occurred to me, other than when the book wagon came to school, that you could buy the same books they had at the library. Not to say we didn't have books at home, I remember we got The Berenstain Bears books by mail twice a month. I just don't remember ever in my life thinking 'Hey, that was a really good book, I want to buy it and put it on a shelf'. I guess I just always figured that any particular book would go back to the library shelf and wait for me until I was ready to read it again.
I don't remember many of the books I read from the children's section way back when, but I actually remember the day I graduated to the young adult section. I think it had been quite some time since our last trip to the library, I might have been 10 or 11. The branch we were in had the kids section entrance on one side once you walk in the door, and the adult section on the other side. Well, I must have been feeling a little old for the kid section, so I went with my mom to the adult section. I can't remember if she suggested it, or I found it on my own, but there was a separate room in the back of the adult section for young adult books. It was perfect. There were several shelves, and it felt isolated, like my own secret library. I think at that time I was still a little young for some of the themes in those books, and I can't remember any of them very clearly.
Jump forward and I'm about 15. A new library had been built not far from where I was going to school, and I went there frequently. The young adult shelves there hold the books that I start to remember reading. These books I fell in love with. I remember standing there looking at the shelves, usually in the A-G section and just looking over the titles over and over. I remember being diplomatic about some of my book choices. Sometimes I would pick a book by an author there was only one book by. Sometimes I would pick a book by the most interesting or colorful cover. Sometimes I would pick by the merit of the title. Sometimes I would deliberately leave my comfort zone of shelves A-G and pick a book from the other shelves H-Z...though for some reason I never liked doing this (even though I found some good books there too). A few titles I can remember, but I never learned the authors. Armageddon Summer, Someone Like You, Stargirl, East. Mostly I remember the content. Sometimes it haunts me that I will probably never know what book some of these ideas in my head came from. So many of them changed the way I read and look at the world.
I remember for a short phase I would go to the D section in every young adult section of every library I went in and picture where my future books would fit in with all those others (it has always been a distant dream of mine to be among the library titles). Usually it was near the bottom or way up high, or in between unattractive books. I think that was the driving force behind my strange book picking habits. What about those authors, I would think, they worked just as hard and as long on their books, and most people don't even look that high, or that low. I made a point to be the person who did.
That feeling, the feeling of perusing the shelves, knowing the perfect book is out there if you just look for the right thing, that's what I had again this afternoon. Most other days I go and plop into a chair to read the book I brought with me. It's been a long time since I just wandered the shelves looking through everything, considering titles, authors, covers, and plot summaries. It seems like lately I don't read a book unless I've seen a high rating of it somewhere, or someone else I know is reading it. It's easy to forget while clicking from one link to the next on the internet that it's the books in between, the ones hiding between the hits on the shelves, that can be the most valuable treasures.
Hopefully this idea sticks with you, and on your next trip to the library you will take a second look at some of the books you've never considered before. Chances are, you'll find some really good stuff hidden in plain sight.
Happy Reading Everyone.
These pictures are not of my local libraries, but random libraries scattered throughout the internet ;-)