Monday, March 31, 2014

Library Musings: Rediscovering My Appetite at the Library

One unfortunate side-effect of college, at least for me, was a diminishing appetite for books.
It’s not that I didn’t read. On the contrary, I was more prolific than I had ever been on my own. The books I read, however, were often not of my own choosing, and the experience was enlightening but not all that fun. It was a necessary chore, something to get through so that I could contribute to class discussions and chip away at my ever-rising mountain of papers. These books took up a massive chunk of my so-called “free time” (really alternating blocks of homework and procrastination time), and I hardly wanted to spend what little I had left at the end of the day reading more. So while I read a lot for class, I stopped reading for me.

The longer this went on, the more I associated “reading” with schooling. Reading was no longer lounging on the couch with a book in hand, losing myself in the halls of Hogwarts or tumbling through the wardrobe to Narnia. Reading became bending over a desk, pressing pages flat against the wooden surface to make underlining relevant passages easier. Reading was no longer an impromptu thing done whenever and however I felt. Reading for class was a structured act. Each day I set page goals for myself. One hundred pages on Monday. One hundred and fifty on Tuesday to make up for the fifty I’d failed to read the day before. And on and on until I either finished the book or slammed it shut and declared my progress good enough. 

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that when I was done with school my reading habit needed a kick start. My definition of reading had transformed into something akin to work. It was also a fairly expensive hobby, and as a gamer and a cinephile, I had more than enough of those. It was hard to justify risking ten to fifteen dollars and hours of my valuable free time on a book I didn’t even know I’d like. My reading habit continued to languish.

And then I started working at the Belmont County Public Library. Suddenly I was surrounded by books, free books, books I could take home with just the swipe of a card. And I wasn’t limited to books from our library’s collection. Through our inter-library loan system, I had access to the complete collections of dozens of libraries throughout the state. Whatever I wanted, I could have. The literary world was my expansive, origami oyster.

I may have gone a little mad with power. 
Just a little mad.

I started out slow, reading, at most, one book a week. I started, slowly, to enjoy myself again. I didn’t have to force myself to read. I wanted to, every day, sometimes for hours. One book became two, then three, until my appetite threatened to outgrow my tiny stack of checkouts. I put a few more books on hold. And then a few more. My holds came in avalanches, burying the top of my bookshelf in a pile twenty-one books deep. Even then I wasn’t sated. I stopped putting books on hold, but I continued adding them to my lists on Enterprise, and I’m still adding new books to those lists almost every day. 

It’s addictive, this library thing. 

Just a little addictive.

1 comment:

  1. I was in about the same boat, but my reading slump started earlier and lasted longer. I stopped reading for fun when the required reading for school became tedious (I was fortunate that it didn't happen until high school - for most people it seems to happen much earlier).

    For the next 12 years, I only read when there was something particularly exciting, like a new Harry Potter book, or a glowing recommendation such as His Dark Materials (recommended by Shayla Poling) or A Game of Thrones (recommended by literally everyone).

    Then last year, my favorite childhood novel was made into a movie. After watching Ender's Game, I decided to go reread the books. I had read all four of the novels when I was younger, and was at an age where the first one was the only one to not go over my head. Over three months, I read 13 novels in the series (Card's been busy, it seems). My passion's not quite where it once was, but it's good to know that flame hasn't been extinguished entirely.