Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dime Finds and Small Town LIbraries

Our town library is tiny -- smaller than our own collection of books. It wasn't until I figured out how to use the internet requesting service, and it's embarrassing how many years that took, that it became a regular and practically indispensable addition to our lives. We go there customarily on Mondays -- it's a fixed tradition, along with cleaning the house, Aidan's OT home visit, and often a trip to the market to buy our weekly candy. Plus a half-day of formal academics.

The librarians have come to know us and they seem delighted about delivering our requests, even though it makes extra work for them. Since it's such a small town and everyone knows each other, they have become our friends. Once our librarian Chris even drove us home when our car had broken down on the highway leading up towards our house.

The library has a couple of those rolling metal book carts that are usually stocked with library discards and books that people bring in when they're done. The library sells them for a dime each. I often talk about "dime finds" on GoodReads and on my blogs and that's what I mean. The side benefit is that when we find something we want, we get rid of some of our dimes and nickels floating around the house and in my purse. Works nicely both ways.

Sometimes our librarian Chris even sets aside books especially for us to look at before she puts them out on the general discard rack. And sometimes she won't let us pay for them -- calls it a "teacher's discount" since she knows we homeschool.

A lot of the books are lakeside fare of course. Plenty of Tom Clancys and John Greshams and Tony Hillerman mysteries, and romances and science fiction. I usually go past those types unless I'm stocking up for a hospital stay or a plane trip. (I like mysteries and some science fiction). But you can also sometimes find some interesting things -- I thought I would photo a few from the last month. You can never have too many books OR book photos.

Here's the category of books that aren't too pretty but are interesting. Usually they're not the type I'd really buy or even check out of the library. For example, I would never go to the effort of getting Skinner's book "Beyond Freedom and Dignity", forsooth! but since it was right there I took it and am reading it. He was remarkably influential and its always good to read the actual words of "the enemy". It was in poor shape -- I can mark it up if I want, etc. (I usually don't mark books unless they're already somewhat unusable to other people -- I take notes on post-its and stick them into the book as placemarks)

This category is what I call NICE books (sorry the picture is blurry) -- I like them either because they are classics or they have fine bindings, or both. I have a visceral fondness for these.

The bottom one in the pile is A History of the United States and its People, by Edward Eggleston! I admit that's not the type of thing I find every day, but it's nice when I do.

Another neat thing about finding these books is that it makes me think about who might have dropped them off at the library. We live in a vacation town with a lot of cabins. Maybe people bring their old family books up here to stock their cabin shelves, as people tend to do, and then decide to get rid of some that are just collecting dust. It can be intriguing to wonder who tattered up a copy of Skinner to the point where pages are falling out, or who's highlighted the copy of Asperger Syndrome, or who gave away an almost mint trade paperback version of The Once and Future King. There are stories behind these books and their previous owners and it's fascinating to think about that.

One time I was browsing through the book rack and someone we're acquainted with from mass saw the book I was looking at (a May Sarton book) and started telling me all about it. It wasn't his book, but he had read it and liked it, and this started a fascinating conversation about the New England writers and how some Transcendalists became Catholics. I hadn't known that this gentleman was a bibliophile until that conversation.

Many of the books I acquire don't end up in our permanent library. For example, once I've read Theodore Roosevelt I'd probably pass it on -- either put it back on the library rack or do something else I've been doing recently -- trading on Paperback Swap. That's what I've done to get these books:

So it's been nice that God's provided for us this way. Something that seemed inadequate and scanty when we first came here turned out to be a source of richness and connection with the larger community.


  1. That is a very charming way to gather good reads! My dad had The Gathering Storm. That exact book sat on his bookshelf for years! I wonder where it is now?

    I am jealous of the Eggleston find.

  2. Oh, the commenting worked for you! Maybe they've straightened it out. I don't think you were the only one having problems with blogger commenting for a while.

  3. Great finds! I love The Once & Future King -- I read it in college and it's still my favorite book on the Arthurian legends.

  4. What great finds...but our problem is always where to put them!!(Can you tell I have been cleaning up bookshelves today??)

    Good score on The Once and Future King.



I would love to hear your thoughts on this!