We live in Delta Township, which borders Lansing, the state capital of Michigan.
There are a number of public libraries in the Greater Lansing area. Many of them are connected to the main library in downtown Lansing. However, some libraries are independent. That includes ours, and the one in East Lansing, the home of Michigan State University.
For many years, I was a member of the East Lansing Library, which had the best selection of books out of all the libraries. I terminated my membership when they decided to charge non-residents the sum of $75 per year for using their facility.
Our library in Delta Township has the best building of all the libraries in the area. It was opened about four years ago and is spacious with lots of natural light.
It’s free to residents. Even though the book selection is not as good as East Lansing, it is able to borrow books upon request from any library in Michigan through what is known as Mel-Cat.
In the last few months, I have tried not to buy any new books, as I tend to accumulate too many. Instead, I borrow from the local library or request books from other libraries through the local library. Only twice in six months have I been unable to get a book I wanted from one of the other libraries; and one of those times the local library bought the $35 book for me, which I was then able to read free of charge.
Borrowing books helps in other ways, too. Typically, you have three weeks to read a book. That puts the pressure on to finish a 600-page history book ASAP. Two weeks ago I borrowed “Europe: the Struggle for Supremacy from 1453” by Brendan Simms, a 560 page thorough account of European history and the ups and downs of the German question. As somebody else also wanted it, I was given two weeks to read it, which works out at over 40 pages a day.
At the same time I tried to borrow “German Europe” by Ulrich Beck, which is not yet available in any Michigan library. It is available on Amazon but I will not yield to temptation and buy it new!
The two books really should be read together and were reviewed together in a recent issue of “The Economist.”
So far, there is no demand for Beck’s book in Michigan, which is interesting in itself. Germany has emerged under Chancellor Angela Merkel as the dominant European power. As Europe is the world’s biggest single market and Germany the world’s biggest single exporting nation, you would expect there to be an increased interest in the country.
(While walking our grandchildren down our street here in Lansing, I noticed a van in a driveway with “German Language Service, Lansing” on the side. Clearly, there is increased trade between Germany and Michigan. When I Googled the service, I learned they translate and offer German language classes.)
The library is not just a source of books. It also offers free DVD’s, which can be checked out for a week at no charge (there is a small charge for new releases). Again, they can get DVD’s from other libraries if you request one. These DVD’s include a lot of really good documentaries, travel films, fitness DVD’s and children’s films. Our grandchildren love to check out a couple of children’s films when we go to the library.
We can also borrow books-on-tape (or CD).
There are a number of newspapers available for reading at the library. These include the “Wall Street Journal”, the “Chicago Tribune” and the “Lansing State Journal.”
There’s a great selection of magazines available alongside the papers. Sadly, they do not offer any foreign magazines, like “The Economist.”
If you want somewhere quiet to work away from home, private study rooms are available. Computers are available for use, or you can bring your own.
They also offer regularly scheduled activities for young children, including a “Baby Time” for two-year-olds. The children get to sing along with the “teacher” and the accompanying parents; afterwards they can play together.
Once a month, they have a free movie afternoon with popcorn for families.
Libraries have changed a lot since I was a child. Back then you went to the library to borrow books and records (remember records?). There wasn’t anything else available.
Today, there’s plenty available at and through your local library. No matter what your income, everything is free (for local residents). It all comes out of our local taxes.
Be sure to check out your library and make good use of what’s offered there.