|Your public library will buy and store books and other materials for you.|
Illustration: Wendy Macnaughton
It has been a fascinating and challenging year since Linda and I packed up everything we owned into a travel van and moved from the west coast of Canada to the east coast of Canada.
One of the first things we did once we decided to stop driving and start looking for a home was locate the public library and apply for our (free) library cards. A short while later our shiny, fresh cards became the first mail we received at our new address.
They were the opposite of receiving a bill in the mail, a kind of anti-bill. A library card gives rather than takes. I can even figure out how much it gives measured in monetary terms.
Our new library has an online resource called the Library Value Calculator. It "lets you know how much it would cost if you had to purchase" the materials and services the user has accessed at their local branch.
I estimated our library usage over the past year using the calculator. I included fiction and non-fiction books, CDs, and videos. We also use the library for printing and photocopying. We don't need to think about bookcases, equipment or ink cartridges.
The total cash value of our library use came to about $1500 dollars. That is money freed up for other essential uses like food, or power, or heat in the winter.
Perhaps the money is the least important part. What is more important is all that freely accessible knowledge just waiting to be absorbed. I don't think I have personally ever entered a public library and not left a happier and more informed person.
Adjusting to our new home, the library has been an awesome hub from which to connect with, and learn about, our community and beyond.
Note on illustration: "Part of her ongoing "Meanwhile" series, illustrator Wendy MacNaughton spent a month at the San Francisco Public Library getting to know the visitors, staff, guards, and librarians, drawing the people she met and interviewing them. The result is the story of the library told through her drawings and the subjects own words. It's a moving meditation on the important and often unseen roles libraries play in the community, and how they serve the public way beyond books."