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Sep 11

Personal Library vs Public Library by Charlotte Helgeson

Posted on September 11, 2020 at 1:25 PM by Genesis Gaule

It doesn’t have to be an either/or question. For me, it is most certainly both. My personal library overflows throughout my home. Oftentimes, piles of materials from the public library sit alongside my personal collection.

Why have both? There are a number of reasons. 

First, is personal preference. Listening or reading a title once is my usual practice for fiction. I’m glad that the library has the material available for me to take home, but most of the time it isn’t something that will gain a place on my shelf.

Nonfiction on the other hand is a mix of public and personal. I enjoy memoirs, but few make it onto my bookshelf. Reading other people’s stories is like a good conversation. I do not want to have a repeat of the same conversation so to with rereading a memoir. Some of my favorite nonfiction are the stories of the untold pieces of history. Fascinating, but again, not something I’ll read twice. Definitely picked up at the library rather than purchase.

I have never purchased an audiobook, but I do listen to them. They all come from the library, either books on CDs or eAudio. Stories I listen to are not the same stories that I read. A whole other assortment of stories best heard rather than my reading them. Even as a grandmother, I like to have a story read to me.

Secondly, access is important. The books I do purchase to keep forever are those I will refer to on a regular basis. I won’t be reading them from cover to cover again, but some pages or chapters will be reviewed over and over. I like these books at my fingertips. These books can range from cookbooks to anatomy books. I also collect fairy tales and fables from around the world. I consider them to be references for my own enjoyment and they can be beautiful!

Third, cost plays a big role. Ooh-la-la, books and audio can be so expensive. A past Library Board member was shocked when she found out the price of a brand new hardcover bestseller. She’d never purchased one--an avid library user. When I purchase a book, the plan is for it to be a part of my life. To remain under my care and within my reach. It is truly an active investment, not just a decoration.

The fourth reason is how it will be used. If I’m studying a book, I’ll write in it. Yes, I do that if I own it. Cookbooks have my variations. Anatomy and yoga books have my teachers’ words to help me remember the information. The exception are my beautiful fable books. Though they may have numerous books.

If we use the public library, we can enjoy a book, maybe learn something, return it, not have to find space for it and not have to pay for it. What a great deal!

The library benefits from those of us who read outside of it too. If we read the first in a series and found it to be fantastic, it will be a good recommendation for the library to purchase the full series. Libraries have great resources to order books before they’re published, so your recommendation can be in your hand the day it is released to the public and the next in the series will be here as soon as it is available. 

The library also benefits when a book is purchased by a patron for a one-time read and then is donated to our collection. Second copies of popular titles are often added to the library in this way. 

Some of the donations are put into The Friends of the Campbell Library Book Sales or Book Store. We will have them again when we can gather safely. Then we can find another treasure for our personal libraries. The Friends profit turns around and financially supports programs and materials purchased for the library.

The Library provides for the community. The community provides for the Library and all residents benefit. 

This week, I took 2 stacks of books home from the library and ordered one book to stay in my home. The best of both worlds!


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