A love letter to libraries

Grace Schutte

More stories from Grace Schutte

May 10, 2023

What started out as a random book thrift in Vancouver, Canada turned into one of my favorite reads of the year.

It is well established that I am a bookstore kind of girl, having worked in a few and making it my entire personality (sorry about that). 

I love perusing the shelves, lapping the place a time or two before walking up to the register with two more books than I actually need. There is something to be said about the sensation of walking out to your car with new pieces to add to your ever-growing collection. 

But book buying can get expensive. Half of the books I own, I haven’t read — there is no telling which one I’ll start next and when (those of you who read my three-part series on all my unfinished reads know this is a real problem). 

The solution to this problem is, in actuality, quite simple. It’s libraries. 

While the idea of going to a library sounds great in theory — and how cute would it be to say you met the love of your life on the third floor somewhere among the stacks of world mythologies? — I wasn’t much of a library-frequenter until this year. 

Earlier this semester, I started doing research with a few librarians and another student about banned books and the consequences it has on society.

We meet weekly in one of the conference rooms in McIntyre Library to talk about our progress in our research, banned book reading, the curriculum we’re making and how the web design is going. 

I have never felt more scholarly in my life. 

It is through this work that I am beginning to realize just how much our campus library has to offer students. From books to technology, research questions to puzzles — the people there are genuine, resourceful and eager to help students with whatever work they may have. 

The L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library is much the same. 

With its redesign wrapping up earlier this year, the new space is stunning with its natural light, multiple performance spaces and open layout. I’ve gone there a time or two for community events and author talks, but also to sit and do work, too. 

And that’s the thing about libraries — they’re community oriented. 

I love a good bookstore moment, I do, but there is an undeniable capitalist agenda behind it all. From the titles you see on the display tables to the membership discounts shoved in your face at check-out, it’s all profit-driven, all of it. 

(And I can say that, because I’m the one usually doing the discount-shoving.)

Part of this is due to the threat of Amazon’s book sales. While everyone loves a good deal, Amazon’s lower prices are putting pressure on not only the bookstores struggling to keep up with their competitive pricing but the publishing industry as a whole. 

If you were to walk into a Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million to buy “It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover, a paperback would most likely cost you around $15, not including tax. Amazon, however, offers it for $9.99, and if you’re a Prime Member, you’ll get free shipping, too. 

“Wow, what a steal,” you’re probably thinking. And yeah, you’re not wrong — it is stealing, stealing from authors, publishers and booksellers, corporate and otherwise. 

But you know what can help combat this entire situation? Libraries can. Shopping local can. Buying second-hand can. 

Consider turning away from those misleading Amazon prices when shopping for loved ones this holiday season, and get them a library card instead. 

Schutte can be reached at [email protected].