This week (18 to 24 March) is South African Library Week. If you’re not sure, this is the one week of the year where South African libraries are celebrated! Each year has a theme, 2019 is Collaborate @ your library, and it aims to bring awareness to all the ways that libraries can make an impact on their communities.

It’s also the week that you can drop off all your overdue library books and you won’t be fined. So for those Forgetful Frankies out there… this is your time.

How many of us, though, actually make use of the library? And when last were you there?? I haven’t had a working library card for about 3 years now, but before that, you couldn’t catch me without one.

As time passed, I stopped going as often as I used to. Working office hours means you can’t always get to the library and Saturday mornings are hectic. Also, reading time was way less. But I found myself buying a lot of books, which has its perks but is also sometimes a waste.

I buy books that I read once and then leave on my shelf to gather dust. I also joined a book club, but couldn’t afford to keep buying the new books – so I ended up not partaking quite often. I completely forgot that there’s an 80% chance the library actually has that book that I can borrow for free!

Ok, so I’m here to convince you to make a trip to your local library this week, or next week, or next month. But definitely make the effort. And, if possible, add it to your monthly schedule. You’ll thank yourself if you do, and here’s why:

Books are free to read

Yeah so, thank you Mr. Obvious, right? But some people forget. To all of you struggling bookworms out there – go and get your library card! If there is a book that you can’t find among the stacked shelves, ask your lovely librarian to help you. There is a high chance that they’ll find the book for you, or perhaps order it if enough people ask for it.

The atmosphere is amazing

If you’re anything like me, a trip to the mall is not complete without popping into the book store. There’s something about a large space filled to the brim with books that creates a soothing, comforting energy. Libraries are full of books both new and old; so they come with that energy as well as decades of history inside the books’ pages.

Browse endlessly

You can literally go into a library and browse the entire day! You can even read the books while you sit on the floor in between the aisles and no one will bother you – unless they need to get to the part of the shelves that you’re blocking.

You also don’t need to worry about salespeople eyeing you out, or interrupting your book browsing with “is there anything I can help you with?” (Bless their hearts). Librarians won’t start rushing you to make any life-altering decisions on what you want to read until it’s almost closing time.

Find books that aren’t necessarily trending

Book stores are great – if you’re wanting to find exactly what everyone else is reading while they are reading it. But libraries…. Oh, the depths of their treasures are almost endless.

Sure, you can find the latest and greatest, although perhaps a bit late, you can also find books that were written before you were even born. Books that hold in them stories of worlds before your time. It’s pretty damn amazing.

You can borrow movies and CDs too

Did you know that there aren’t just books available at the library? Yeah, you can get DVDs, CDs, even audiobooks! Some libraries are also on the ball with ebooks and have those available to borrow, too. I’m not 100% clued up on how this works but it sounds quite interesting!

Find your tribe

Ok, so weird confession but I had one of my very first dates in a library. We were matched up by friends on Mxit, I was 17 and needed a safe place to meet. Of course, the library was always my safe place. The date wasn’t great but that’s beside the point.

If you’re brave enough to speak to people in public, the perfect place to meet friends is in a library! You already know that they like to read, and depending on which aisle you find them in, will depend on what else you have in common.

Discover new and lesser-known authors

There are many, many, many authors in this world. Some who write ok-ish, some who need some more practice, and some who write absolute, pure magic. Some of those magic writers don’t make it through the sea of competition that they find themselves in. So they often don’t make it into the mainstream readers’ hands. But in the library, their books sit and wait patiently for just the right reader to come along.

It’s the best way to read a ton of books when you don’t have much space

As I mentioned, I buy books and they sit on shelves – but my shelves are fast filling up and soon there will be books everywhere! Under my bed, in my cupboard – perhaps, even in the bath because, water restrictions, right?

Your library card is like having a kindle. Thousands of books on a tiny piece of plastic. You can read, and return, and read and return. Saving space, money and the sanity of those you live with.

Learn about your community

If you’ve never been to a library, you won’t know about the notice board that is up in basically every library ever. Find posters, ads, and other notices about companies and organisations in your community. It’s like Facebook, but in real life!

An excuse to get out – without crowds

If you’re not one for crowds, parties, or even shopping malls, getting a library card and borrowing books is a sure fire way to get yourself out in the fresh air. You’ll have to return the books, and will most likely be anxious to get new ones when you finish the ones you have. So you get to leave the house, smile silently at the librarians, peruse at your leisure and go home a happy little bookworm.

Bonus reason: Librarians are amazing, knowledgeable and the bookiest of bookish.

If all of those reasons haven’t yet convinced you to go back and visit your local library, you should think of the librarians! They, of course, love the books that surround them – but also need some human interaction. You should pop in and chat with them a while (in a whisper though). Bring them some coffee, maybe a donut, and thank them for keeping the books so well-organised, clean and in perfect condition.

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