Last week, I did something I haven’t done since early 2020.
I went inside my public library.
During the pandemic, I was lucky enough to still be checking out books from my library, but through a system of reserving specific titles and arranging a day and time to pick them up.
But the library is open again. Open for leisurely browsing. For stocking up. For being in awe of the sheer number of books I have yet to read.
I first thought I’d go into the library with no plans. Just me, my library card, and my empty tote bag. And I’d stroll among the shelves, picking up books, reading the summaries on the back cover, and bringing home as many books as I wanted. (Or as many as I could carry in my bag.)
But then that thought made me feel a bit overwhelmed. There is such a thing as too much choice.
So I handled the visit to the library the same way I handle my grocery shopping.
It’s considered foolish to grocery shop on an empty stomach. I thought the same rule should apply to me in a library. I was hungry for books. For the freedom to walk in and pick up books because something — a cover, a title — caught my eye.
So I made a list.
I went online and accessed the library’s catalog. And wrote down the call numbers for books that had been on my “want-to-read” list. I limited myself to eight books. (I’m not sure how I settled on eight, except that ten seemed too many, and eight seemed close enough to ten.)
I went to the library and made my way around the shelves, gathering my books, until my bag was heavier than I expected (I didn’t realize one book was a hardcover and over 400 pages long).
And I came home happy. With eight books including memoir (Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood), poetry (Mary Oliver’s Devotions), and fiction (Linda Holmes’s Evvie Drake Starts Over) to name a few.
Libraries are open again, and in case you couldn’t tell, I was smiling under my mask.
(The public library still requires patrons to wear masks in consideration of the younger readers who don’t yet have access to a vaccine.)