I am ashamed to say that, up until last year, I had never been inside of a library. For most of my childhood, this was because my family didn’t seem to trust libraries for whatever reason, choosing to take me to the obviously much more expensive Borders for brand-new books. Into adulthood, I grew more comfortable going to other used-goods locations such as thrift stores, but just couldn’t quite jump the hurdle into just going to the damn library.
It didn’t help that they were frequently depicted as negative and hostile spaces in the TV I grew up watching. What was up with that? Between librarians being stereotyped as scary and controlling, to exaggerated tales of overdue fees, I grew up with the impression that the library was a terrible place that you only went to if you literally couldn’t afford anything else. Like the food bank. (The food bank is also fine, I learned.)
I started writing this article thinking of it as a collection of things that you could find at your local library, but that felt so broad as to be meaningless – or patronizing. I’ve chosen to narrow it down to things I have found at my library, as someone who only knew the library as a place where you could get a dirty old book that you’d forget about and accidentally end up paying $50 for.