Checking Out

I’ve decided to let my library card expire. On Sunday I turned in the last couple of books I’d checked out and cleared my hold list. My library system is actually quite good, so my decision is not based on any problems I’ve had concerning holding, checking out, or re-checking books. The problem is me. Libraries are wonderful for people with self control, for people who read 200 pages a day, or for people who don’t have a book blog that requires that they finish a book occasionally.

Certainly for the next three months as I participate in the TBR Double Dog Dare, I need no temptation. That “challenge” does allow taking out books that were on hold before January 1. The problem is that if a book from my hold list comes up, being the slow reader that I am, I’m more likely to set aside something I am already reading so I can read the library book (especially if it’s a “new” book with a two-week checkout period and no re-check available). And it also means that when I’ve finished the library book, I am more likely to ignore the book I was reading before and pick up something else. I’m moody that way.

This year, I would like to be a bit more disciplined about reading from my own books, so I’ve decided that for at least the first half of the year, I will stay away from the library. I think many of you can sympathize: when I’m reading reviews, if something sounds intriguing, it’s just a bit too easy to open up the library site and see if they have the book, and if they have it, to put it on hold. By letting my card expire, I cannot add anything to my hold list should I get a whim. (The Atlanta/Fulton County library system does not allow users to acquire or renew library cards online. For once I am actually thankful for backasswards thinking, because I can’t decide to renew from the cozy comfort of home.)

Going forward, if I really want to read a book that isn’t in my library, I’ll have to buy it (after the TBR Double Dare is over, of course). Not for one second shall I pretend that I don’t buy books and not read them. However, holidays aside, I generally can talk myself out of spending money, even for books. I cannot talk myself out of books that are FREE! And that’s how I end up with a bunch of DNFs and a pile of my own neglected books.

I hear all the time about people giving up buying books or quitting the book swapping sites (I had to do that, too, years ago), but no so much the library. Have you ever been tempted to turn in your library card?

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12 comments

  1. Nope, but it’s a thought. I don’t have trouble checking them out…I just have trouble getting them back in without incurring HUGE fines. I have been known to renew my checked out books online for as long as the library will let me, and then still be forced to pay a small ransom in fines as I will keep them for weeks without returning them, notices from the library be damned. So, maybe I should turn in my card…I am an unreliable library patron.

  2. I didn’t go to my library for about 4 years – I had enough books in my house and I kept getting fined for not returning books on time! I only went back when my children were old enough to read. I could live without my library now, but I wouldn’t want my children to miss out so I take them – and that reminds me to return the books so I don’t get fined any more.

  3. I can’t imagine not being an active library user simply because here in the UK they are threatening and closing branches and it seems like the best way to support them is to use them and draw attention to them. It’s good to get the balance between your own shelves and the library’s though.

  4. Jackie, interesting–you had the fine issue as well! I did occasionally, but usually not because I forgot to return something, but because I wasn’t finished with it and could not renew it. Children definitely need the library, not just because they go through books so fast, but because it’s great to give them that exposure to a public service.

  5. Alex, I do see your point. I am not planning to abandon my library forever, but for now it seems wise. Ours actually seem to be doing pretty well, so fingers crossed. One thing I have wondered though: speaking of fines, why don’t libraries charge more? Not sure how it works over there, but here in Atlanta it’s only 10 cents a day for an overdue book. I think they should charge at least 50 cents, if not a dollar! It might get people to return books on time (cough*Pat, Jackie*cough), but it would definitely help raise revenues. Seems to go against the idea of public and low cost in some ways, I guess, but I’d rather pay and have the service available than have no library at all.

  6. I’ve only recently encountered the phenomenon of the expiring library card. I’ve never lived anywhere that you had to renew it, but the city next to mine does require renewals. I was tempted to let it expire, but only because I don’t go there very much, but their e-book collection is better than my city’s, so I renewed.

    I have barred myself from the library a few times over the years, but I really do like browsing there, and my nearest library is a nice walk (about 1/2 a mile) from my house. So my rule now is that I have to walk there and can only check out what I can carry home! And I still try to read at least one book I own for every book I check out. I end up taking a lot of books back to the library unread, but I figure it keeps the circulation up on the kinds of books I like.

  7. Teresa, how nice to be able to walk to the library! My library is about 3 miles away, and if traffic is bad it can take 20-25 minutes to get there by car (Atlanta). My hiatus will be a short one–it’s nothing permanent. I wish that the card did not expire and don’t see why it should (it’s not as if there is a fee or anything), but its expiration did make me think hard about some bad reading (or not reading) habits I’ve fallen into.

  8. I don’t think I could give up my library. I only became a member last year. For me, it was a solution at a time when I was unemployed, and was so tempted by new (or old) books, but that I knew I could not buy for months and months (depending on when the job situation would lift). Now, I use the library every time I’m tempted, just to check if they own the book. It’s actually a way of trying to keep my own library smaller. But you are right, it does happen often that I feel I have to read the library books first, before they have to be returned. So I’m at least trying to concentrate on my own books, but.. it’s hard.

    I very much admire your discipline. Good luck!

  9. Oh wow. I can’t even imagine giving up my library card. I use it constantly, for checking out physical books and especially ebooks because I have a Nook now. You are a woman of iron self-control giving up your library card. Way to go! And good luck with your TBR challenge.

  10. Iris, I also started using my library years ago when I was unemployed. It was a tremendous gift to have it available. My plan right now is hopefully to renew my membership this summer, after I’ve had a chance to “shop my own shelves” so to speak. It’s too easy to keep putting books on hold or finding something new and shiny to read.

  11. Jenny, that was exactly my problem! One thing I learned this last year: I’ll put a bunch of books on hold, they’ll all come up at the same time, and I never get though them, even after renewing. There’s always another book–and my library has books for the Kindle now, so that makes it even worse! For the next six months I’d like to focus on my own shelves, but I’ll go back to the library. Even though I did buy a lot of books (first time in a long time) over the holidays, I’m frankly not big on clutter and collecting too much, so that alone will drive me back to the stacks eventually.

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