"Why should I pay you to use your books when I can get them at the public library for free?"
"Why Robin, I didn't know you charged money for this library! I thought you did it out of the goodness of your heart!"
These are (relatively) legitimate concerns. My answers often depend on the condition of my back and my mood, but while I'm in a good one, I'll answer them here.
Why a private library rather than public? Contrary to what I always believed, public libraries do not contain all that is good and noble in literature. Librarians instead are instructed to offer what is current and popular. Libraries today offer books filled with politically correct revisionism, Darwinism and pop culture. Many of today's libraries are replacing bookshelves for computer screens. In fact, in my small town library you'll find a large center area of computer terminals with the books being pushed to the margins. An alarming number of the books it does contain, especially in the youth section, focus on the occult. When I began using living books in my homeschool, I was appalled at what we were finding in our local library. In future posts I will address this culture shift, but suffice it to say, the treasured books in my "well-edited" library are rarely found in any public library.
What about the money? Ah...here's where we really get to the heart of the matter. Why do I not offer my collection for free as a ministry? Again, this is a cultural issue and Christian homeschool families are not exempt from its influence. First of all, public libraries are not free. And even if they were, is it worth the price we pay to expose our children to the depravity offered on most library shelves? My family has invested tens of thousands of dollars in the best gems the "golden age of children's literature," as Michelle Miller calls it, has to offer. These books, primarily written between 1920 and 1970, touch our lives in ways most modern books do not. Michelle says this about children's books written during this golden age:
The wonderful earlier books were written when there was a more prevailing Judeo-Christian ethic in the country. This affected literature—even if the author was not a professing Christian—in a profound way, because it sees the human as a spiritual being, and the author thus writes to a more important part of the reader. He was trying to stir up, as C.S. Lewis, said “something noble in the heart of the reader.”
Hours upon hours have been spent buying books, shelving books, repairing books, recommending books, assembling bookcases, icing sore backs. Our family believes the benefits are worth the sacrifice.
But couldn't we still minister more to families if we offered our library for free? Honestly, the fact is, we really only value what we personally invest in. The patrons who come through my doors receive so much more than wonderful books for their children to read. They enjoy Christian fellowship and friendship for themselves and their children, a librarian who has first-hand knowledge of who their children are as persons and what interests them, support, and recommendations for life-changing books. Not only are my patrons being ministered to, I am as well. I love hearing the edifying conversations among patrons on library day. I love to see children scattered over the floor with a book or discussing the best parts of their current favorite. I love it when they burst through the door and say, "Mrs. Pack, this was the best book I've ever read!" And as I watch Godly friendships blossoming and young lives being formed through living books, I am ministered to. And I pray our nation and our world will be ministered to as these children rise up and proclaim the truth of God to a lost world.
Some things you just can't put a price on...