Breaking My Library Habit and Reading My Own Books

I haven’t set any formal reading resolutions for 2018, but here’s one that I’m generally working towards: I would like to read fewer books from the library, and more books that I own. I love the library. It is, in my opinion, a shining beacon of all things good in the world. As soon as I hear about a book that sounds interesting to me, I can search to see if the library has it. If they don’t, I can see if another library has it who will interlibrary loan it. If no one does, I can request they carry it, and often they will. If the library has it, I can put it on hold and just run out and grab it on my lunch break. It’s incredibly convenient.

So convenient, in fact, that 70% of the books I read last year were through the library. (23% were eARCs. Only 4% were books I owned.) The funny thing is, unlike most of the bookish internet, I don’t have a book buying problem. Because the library is so convenient, I rarely buy books. But I do have a backlog of books that I own, most of which I bought years ago, before I got my book buying habits under control. (In those days, I had just started working at a bookstore. I couldn’t resist.)

That means that I have hundreds of books I haven’t read, most of which I’ve owned for more than 5 years. I don’t have a problem with having lots of unread books; the idea of having no unread books at home—just in case—makes me nervous. But there’s a different between having a buffer of unread books and having a collection of books that I’m pretty much guaranteed never to read.

The thing is, library books have a due date. So they always are top priority. Those owned books I could read any time. That hold that I just picked up? I have to read it by the 22nd! It says right on it! So although I’ve been meaning to read books that I own for years, I feel like I get caught in this frantic library book cycle. I put books on hold, forget about them, and then end up with a giant stack to pick up all at once. I scramble to read them before they expire, lining them up according to due date and noting which ones have holds and so can’t be renewed.

By the time I finish that stack, I have somehow acquired enough holds to do it again. I may be able to resist buying books, but clicking the hold button is a lot harder to fight. As much as I love the library, though, I’ve gotten a little sick of this cycle that I put myself through. I miss spontaneous reading! I don’t want to feel like “I want to read this book, but I have to read this book.” I don’t get assigned reading! I shouldn’t put myself through that!

As I write this, I have a giant stack of library books looming over me. Maybe I’ll take some of them back unread. I know I won’t stop using the library this year. For one thing, most of the books that I own are by white authors, and I don’t want that to be all I’m reading. Hopefully, I can control my library habit enough so that it just supplements my reading, instead of overwhelming it.

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Danika Ellis: Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books on tumblr and at the Lesbrary, as well as chatting about all sorts of bookish things on booktube. When she’s not immersed in the bookternet, she’s running the kids’ section in the largest used bookstore in Canada.     Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis