The Public Library Saved Me Over $1500 Last Year

Photo by Ryunosuke Kikuno on Unsplash

My first memories of the public library are those of a child sitting on the primary-colored mat flipping through the pages of a book about a talking goose. Even though the selection at our small, rural library was limited, I always left with multiple books.

As an adult, I’ve made a point of getting a library card soon after moving to a new place. Despite being friends with many people who love to read, most of the people that I know seem to rarely or never go to the library. However, the American Library Association reports that about 2/3 of Americans say they have been to the library in the past year.

I go to the library on a frequent basis. It’s entirely possible that I may underestimate how often other people are going because I expect their habits to look like mine. I read a lot.

During the past year, I read 110 books. 94 of those books were borrowed from the library. I love supporting local bookstores, but buying that many books on a teacher salary would not have been possible (there is some irony here).

I decided to calculate the cost of the books that I read from the library. I didn’t include the books that I borrowed but decided not to finish after reading part of them.

I did decide to count all of the home, garden, and cooking books that I borrowed. I don’t generally include those as “books read” when I keep track of my reading because I don’t read every single word of each of them, but since my husband and I bought a new house this year, flipping through home-related books was part of my nesting process. I definitely would have bought a ton of home and garden books if I hadn’t been able to borrow them from the library.

I based the prices in the calculation on the lowest price available on Amazon. Normally, I use a mix of sources for books that I don’t get from the library, including independent bookstores, thrift shops, and second-hand bookstores. In 2020 though, I would most likely have turned to Amazon more often if I had intended to buy so many books.

The total of the books I borrowed from the library based on these criteria was $1514.82. I knew that I saved money by going to the library, but I didn’t realize that I had read more than the equivalent of a month of our mortgage payment.

Besides the monetary savings, being able to borrow books from the library was a positive in other ways.

  • I was more adventurous in the books that I chose to try-out. If I didn’t like a book, the only thing that I wasted was the minutes I put into reading the first pages.
  • Thanks to my library’s blog, I found some gems like The Great Beanie Baby Bubble that I would never have thought to read. So fascinating.
  • I started a project reading a book from each country in the world. I’ve been wanting to do this for years, but the idea of buying that many books was too daunting.
  • My list of books to buy has actually grown. I want to support local bookstores as often as possible. Their prices are usually high, so I want to know that I’m getting a book I’m going to love. Borrowing books from the library has made it easier for me to decide which books I most want to own, and I feel confident spending money on those books.
  • I was able to read new releases sooner than I normally would. I am less likely to buy hardback books than paperback books due to price. I read 11 books this year that had not yet been released in paperback. It may sound silly, but, for me, it’s exciting to be able to read something within the first year that it’s released. There are a few authors whose books I pre-order as soon as the authors announce new books, but again that doesn’t happen often.

Until I moved to my current city, I didn’t use the library quite as much as I do now. I would estimate that as an adult, I probably borrowed between 10 and 30 books a year. The selection wasn’t as wide at smaller library systems, and at the time, I was teaching middle school English which meant that I was reading a lot of books that I had bought for my classroom library in order to be able to share those books with my students.

In the past, I have volunteered at my local library and bought books from their book sales in order to support the library. Although I can’t do those things right now due to COVID, I fully plan to do them again as soon as it is possible.

Besides books, libraries are a wealth of resources for our communities. We should be both using those resources and supporting libraries to allow them to continue providing those resources for everyone.

If you don’t already use your local library, why not visit their website and just see what’s going on there. Even if you only borrow a few books a year, it’s worth going to the library.

Lover of books, adventures, friends, dancing, muffins, France, camp fires, and Ole Miss. And, I teach.

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