Hello, it’s Sabrina! A little while ago, Vera gave me the idea to write post about the library so, today I’m here to tell you about all the ways my local public library has changed my reading life – and exactly how much money it has saved me. I am super privileged to have access to such an amazing resource for free and I hope, if you have a public library in your area, this post encourages you to explore and support it.
First of all, I want to tell you how exactly I use the library and the benefits of the different methods. There are three main ways I access books:
1. ON THE PREMISES
The most obvious way to use your library is to visit it. This is a great way to find books that you might never have heard of before, just by browsing the shelves. This is an especially useful method for me if I am looking for non-fiction books on a certain subject, because everything is super organised. It’s particularly good if you want to read something immediately, instead of waiting in a queue – looking at you, mood readers.
My local library even has some shelves in the front that they use to spotlight different kinds of books – sometimes it’s new releases, sometimes cookbooks, sometimes celebrity autobiographies. Often the subjects are even more specific than that and it has led to me finding some interesting books that I would have otherwise overlooked among the thousands.
Of course, the library is also where you can find librarians! All the ones I have spoken to have been kind and excited to help. But if you don’t want to interact with anyone, that’s okay too at my library, because the check out and returns systems now use computers. I just have to scan my card and place the books I want on the scanning bed. It’s very quick and easy to use, and I can choose whether I want my receipt emailed to me or printed right then and there.
2. ORDERING THROUGH THE WEBSITE
This is the method I use most often. I may in fact be slightly addicted to it. It’s just so easy to log in, search up a book and place it on hold. On every book’s page there’s a bunch of information: your place in the queue, how many copies the library has and where those copies are, the Goodreads average rating plus Goodreads reviews embedded on the website. There’s other information there too that’s less relevant – the publishing year, number of pages, height and width of the book amongst other things.
Recently, my library’s website has even added a History function, where you can see all the books you have borrowed in the past.
My library is part of a whole network of libraries, and the website is the place where you really notice that in action. I can order a book in from several suburbs away, and they will send it to my chosen library and give me an automated phone call when it’s in. There is even the possibility to connect to a wider library network and have books sent from interstate – though this service has a small fee.
Also, once I’ve put a book on hold, I can choose to suspend it so that my position in the queue goes down, but the book won’t become available to me until after my chosen date. This has been especially useful for me this month – there are several books that I’ve paused my hold on so I can stagger the amount of books I have at one time without sacrificing my position in the queue.
When the books arrive at my library, I go in and get them off the Reserved shelf and check them out. I have ten days to pick them up after I’ve been notified.
The other best part of the website, in my opinion, is being able to request books for the library to buy. I’ve sent in a few by now and most of them have been ordered for me and I’ve actually been able to get my hands on them!
3. USING LIBBY
I discovered this last year and wow, has it changed things for me. If you have a library number, you should be able to access Libby, an e-book and audiobook app. This is an incredible resource and I have it all in the palm of my hand on my smart phone. The benefits of Libby combine those of the physical library and using the website – you can both put specific books on hold or browse the books that are currently available. The pure instantaneousness of Libby is one of the things that makes it so special. You’re also supposed to be able to use it without an internet connection if you download the books you’ve borrowed, but I must admit that I’ve had some issues with that. I mostly use it for finding books that my library doesn’t have or for finishing a book when I’ve hit the return deadline on a physical copy.
There are some other benefits of the library too, that don’t have to do with books:
🌸 The free use of computers.
🌸 Events! I have gone to several talks and workshops at my library – some free, some with a small cost.
🌸 They have current newspapers and magazines in the building.
🌸 I found out they have writing club! I haven’t joined because I am afraid, but it’s fun to know that it’s there.
🌸 They send out a newsletter every month with interesting articles, author interviews, events information and other things.
🌸 You can also borrow tv shows, movies and music.
NOW, ONTO THE MONETARY SAVINGS…
Below, you will see the Google Sheets document where I calculated the cost of all the books I borrowed from the library in the year 2019. If you can’t see it, I’ve mentioned the total below that so don’t worry. Some disclaimers first:
🌸 All the prices I got were from the Dymocks website (all in Australian dollars, as my total is), and I chose the cheapest paperback edition (except for a few where the only option was hardcover), as that is what I would buy.
🌸 I used to buy all my books from the Book Depository because it’s usually slightly cheaper but I decided it was worth the few extra dollars to buy locally, so I am keeping this in line with that.
🌸 I’ve discovered that e-book copies are significantly cheaper for the most part, and hardcovers are significantly more expensive.
🌸 Audiobooks are typically fifty million times more expensive and I wouldn’t buy one even if it was my last option because I would go broke in a matter of weeks.
🌸 I absolutely would not read graphic novels either if I didn’t have my library, because they are so expensive!
So, the grand total I saved by using the library in the year 2019?
There’s no way I would be financially able to spend that much each year on books the way I live now. In fact, I probably would be barely reading at all. But thanks to my library, I am able to pick and choose which books I want to buy and own forever, so it’s not as though I don’t spend any money on books. Just an amount that is feasible for me.
And now, some fun facts I discovered while collecting the above prices:
🌸 There is a version of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield in audiobook format for sale at $116.99
🌸 If you thought that was bad, The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow can be purchased, in audiobook format, at $191.99
🌸 And if you thought that was surely the worst it could get, Girls of Paper And Fire by Natasha Ngan would set you back $271.99 for the audiobook copy
🌸 The second hardcover collection of the Saga graphic novel series can be purchased for $111.99
🌸 The cheapest copy of The Girl Aquarium by Jen Campbell, a poetry collection coming in at a mere 64 pages, costs $39.99
🌸 The Secret History by Donna Tartt has been published as an orange Penguin book, and so can be bought reasonably cheaply for only $12.99, otherwise it is $24.99
🌸 Every single book I included except for 100 Years of Fashion ($55.00) and Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (the paperback is for some reason $40.24) was x dollars and 99 cents, which leads me to wonder – is that really necessary?
Libraries are an incredibly valuable resource that I wish were available to everyone. I also wish they were all funded well enough to be as good as mine. That being said, do some research into your library! I didn’t know about a lot of the benefits of mine until I dug a little deeper. It’s also important to note that using your library still benefits authors, so there is no need to feel guilty for taking advantage of it.
What do you think?
Do you have a local library? Is it good? Do you know how much you spent on books last year? Let me know!