Winchester Handley Library exterior

How I Became a Library Fangirl

Most kids growing up probably went to the beach or amusement parks for fun on the weekends. Meanwhile, my family went to… the library.

This sounds like punishment, but really it was awesome. Every weekend (even in rain), we would drive to our public library and I would head directly for the Berenstain Bears or Where’s Waldo books, the Highlights magazines, or see what new Disney VHS tapes were available to borrow. As I got a little older, I moved onto the Sweet Valley series, the Jedi Apprentice books, Calvin and Hobbes comics, and PG rated movies. However, when I moved into my teen years, I also moved on from the weekly family library trips. When I went to college, the only time I was in the library was to use the printer. As far I was concerned, the library was just a building full of books that I didn’t care about.

When I moved to the DC area, I had to quickly adjust to the concept of “commuting”. Previously in my hometown, it would take 15 minutes or less to get anywhere. Now, it could mean a few hours in your car, on a bus, or the metro just to get to work. Traffic was stressful enough, and listening to depressing news stories or songs with lots of ads on the radio didn’t alleviate the stress. When I complained about this to Barb, she would keep saying the following thing:

Why don’t you go to the library?

-Barb, Ultimate Library Fangirl

I didn’t really understand what she meant. Did she expect me to read a book while I was driving? Barb has worked at libraries for several years and she’s always loved books. It’s the perfect job for her. She would constantly talk about how great libraries were and all the awesome services they offered, but truthfully I would zone out during her fangirl speeches.

Since I had “outgrown” the library, I hadn’t really checked out any of the branches near my new home. The last time I was in a library, card catalogs were still a thing and the computers had floppy disk drives. I decided I would finally check it out. Maybe Barb meant there were some meditation books I could read after work. At the very least, it meant I could tell Barb to stop telling me to go to the library. 😄

That weekend, I looked up where my local branch was and it was actually much closer than I realized. It was only about a 3 mile walk away. When I walked inside the building, I felt a familiar sense of warmth even though I had never been to this place before. I felt the same relaxed, comforting, happy feeling that I had back when I was a child. As I took in my surroundings, I saw a children’s section like the one I used to excitedly run to. However, there was way more stuff to check out now that I was an adult. For starters, the DVD section was huge, the computers weren’t ancient, there were notices about special programs and events, and plenty of new hardcover releases that I had seen on display at the bookstore. However the most important thing that caught my eye were the plentiful number of audiobooks and fliers on the wall mentioning digital access to even more media.

Ohhhh, I get it now.

-Me, Finally REMEMBERING that the library is a wonderful place

Since that life changing day, I am now a huge supporter of local libraries. It’s not that I hated them before; I simply forgot how truly wonderful these places are. Most people probably just think of libraries as a place with old, dusty books and that is so far from the truth!

Your local library’s offerings may differ, so you should really check their website. However, here are just a few of the awesome services I can get FOR FREE at my library:

1) Free Access to Cozy Mystery Audiobooks

Once I discovered that I much prefer listening to audiobooks instead of reading physical copies, I’ve now read so many amazing authors and immersed myself in new worlds. Audiobooks are wonderful when you’re walking around the neighborhood or on a safe trail, and especially great when cross stitching.

Some audiobooks, like Star Wars, will have full on sound production, complete with music and sound effects and occasionally a full cast of voice actors. Others, like the Harry Potter books, will have a talented voice actor army of one who can still make you feel like you’re experiencing an array of characters. For autobiographies, often times the author themselves will read their own books out loud which makes the content feel even more personal.

While I love audiobooks in general, one of my favorite genres are cozy mysteries which I discovered are plentiful on the Hoopla and Libby apps. I’ve listened to the entire Mainely Needlepoint Mysteries by Lea Wait, all of the Hannah Swensen series by Joanne Fluke, and the Daisy Teagarden books by Karen Rose Smith, just to name a few. It’s made walking and crafting even more enjoyable than they already are which sounds impossible, but I’m serious. 

These same books are also available through paid streaming services, but I can access all these books for free which means more money to spend on hobbies! 😄

2) Free Access to Cross Stitching and Tea Time Magazines (and more)

As a cross stitcher, I frequently use Etsy to find new patterns. My favorites list continuously grows everyday and honestly it adds up to a hefty sum of money. Through the Libby app, I have free access to several cross stitching resources including The World of Cross Stitching and CrossStitcher magazine which feature plenty of patterns that are in my “to be stitched… one day” list. The only difference is, this is free!

When we’re planning tea parties, my go-to resource is Tea Time Magazine. I love all the beautiful tablescape pictures, the how-to articles for perfect tea party tips, and the many seasonally inspired menus. I’ve gotten so many scone, tea sandwich, and dessert ideas for our tea parties at home like our absolute favorite, the carrot cake scone!

Every month, I get notified when the newest issue of my favorite magazines are released. It’s like Christmas every month. While you could go to your grocery or book store and technically read the same issue for free while you’re awkwardly standing for ten minutes, these magazines will be removed when the next issue comes along. With Libby though, these issues are cataloged for a certain time period so you’re free to access them for a few years. And you don’t have to stand while you’re reading 😏

3) Free Access to Movies and TV shows (streaming and physical DVDs)

While the library doesn’t give you free access to Netflix (at least mine doesn’t), it does have quite the film selection. Recently I watched the Oscar nominated film “Past Lives” (and cried hard at the ending) through the Hoopla app on my Roku thanks to my library card access. I was able to borrow it for 3 days and stream without any commercials for free. Through Hoopla, I’ve watched the entire Agatha Raisin series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and even several Hallmark films. There’s also an app my library offers called Kanopy which has an impressive collection of award winning films like Lady Bird and Train to Busan. All of these are ad free and covered with my library card.

In the past, I’ve also borrowed DVDs from the library, specifically for some older films. One of my favorite things to do during afternoon tea at home is to show a movie that features people drinking tea. It makes it an immersive experience. For this particular tea, I had my heart set on Anne of Green Gables. Xak had never seen it before and I wanted to immediately correct that. The 1985 version starring Megan Follows as Anne and Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert is only available for streaming from one location but lo and behold, my local library had a copy! We quickly borrowed it and had an excellent afternoon. The only regret I had for that day is I forgot to make raspberry cordial.

4) Free Access to Language Learning Materials

When I first started learning Korean, like every person who starts learning a language, I wanted to become fluent as fast as possible. Of course, this means a TON of practice and there’s no promise you’ll ever get there. Before I enrolled in actual classes, I wanted to try to learn a little bit on my own. Since my commute to my job took about an hour each way, I had a lot of time in the car to either listen to those awful traffic reports or I could practice speaking Korean without worrying about anyone listening to me. 

I ended up going through the entire Pimsleur Korean audio course during my commutes, and while that didn’t make me fluent, it definitely helped me become more comfortable with speaking and working on my accent. When I ended up attending my classes, I found that the sounds didn’t feel so foreign to me after all.

Additionally, my library has lots of other resources like Korean fairy tales, Korean movies (through Hoopla and Kanopy), and a language learning app called Mango Languages.

While you’re not guaranteed to become fluent just from going to the library, there are a lot of materials that will help you get closer to your language goals. Your library might also offer free conversation classes or cultural events so it’s important to check out your library’s calendar. Speaking of events…

5) Free Events (supplies provided!)

As a crafter, I love trying out new hobbies. However, I hate having to spend money to learn that I end up hating these hobbies. I’m the kind of person who likes testing things out before jumping into the hobby since I know how expensive and frustrating it can get when you first start. It’s also hard when you don’t have someone around to ask questions.

Through the library, I’ve attended knitting classes, an introduction to paper quilling, and even learned how to paint BB-8 during a special Star Wars Day event. There are events for every age group. There are even events where you can read out loud to dogs! I feel pretty confident that you’ll find something that will pique your interest.

BB-8 painting
During Star Wars Day (May 4th), the library held a special painting class with all the supplies provided! Here’s my attempt at the rolly boy droid, BB-8.

Dani: the Library Lover

I’ve only listed five things in this post, but there are so many more reasons why you should go to the library which I hope to share in the future. I feel very lucky that I have access to a place that fosters learning and education, embraces inclusivity, and satisfies the curiosity and creativity for people of all ages. I’m also very grateful to all the library workers, like Barb, who ensure that the library is a safe and welcome place for everyone. While naysayers may want to argue about how libraries are funded, what other place can you go to that offers as much knowledge as a library where you don’t have to pay to be there? I honestly can’t think of any. These are truly treasured places that we must protect for the upcoming generations to be able to enjoy, learn, and appreciate.

Thank you to all the library workers out there for everything you do. Happy National Library Week!

After all these years, this song is still a banger.

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