Often when the conversation of operating a library in my home arises, I get variations of the following comments...
"You have a library...in your house??"
"You mean people come to your house to check out books?"
"What do you DO with 18,000 books?!?"
Occasionally I'm conversing with someone who wishes to do this crazy thing called "operating a private library" in her home and are trying to wrap her brain around the logistics of such an undertaking.
I thought I'd take a little time and share what our lives look like as we go about the business of sharing our treasures with 30+ families in our community.
My library hours are always posted in the right hand column of this blog. Patrons check their due dates with my schedule and plan their visit. On library days, we get up and milk cows and other farm chores. My boys begin asking almost immediately, "Who's coming to the library today?" They begin making plans based on my answer (getting ball equipment together, for example.) We have breakfast and I go over their schoolwork based on how busy I expect to be. Patrons are asked to let me know if they're coming. If the day will be light, we might be able to get in a semi-regular school day. If the day will be insane, I leave a list on the fridge to be completed independently. I also leave a self-serve lunch with instructions to bring me a few crackers or something around mid-day.
Before the library opens, I make sure I have paper in the printer for check-out sheets, swipe over the bathroom and check essentials like soap and toilet paper (those practical things...), maybe run the vacuum. I pull the check-out sheets of those whom I'm expecting as well as any books that have been requested.
Families come and go during the day with lots of chatter, laughter, encouragement, sometimes a few tears as burdens are confided. The children enjoy telling me about their favorite reads during the past month. They make their rounds among the shelves starting piles of volumes that may become treasured friends. Moms ask for my picks of books of various topics and time periods. Books are checked in and checked out, packed in totes and sent out the door.
After the library closes for the day, the fun begins. Reshelving the hundreds of books that are returned in an average library day can take hours a week. If my week is particularly crazy, I may not get it done at all, in which case piles of books accumulate on the book cases and the floor. Families don't seem to mind as they sift through the piles to see what has been returned that they might enjoy themselves.
So you may ask...is it worth it?
My answer is definitely...yes!
Yes, it can be stressful. Yes, it's often back-breaking work. Yes, I have no money to spare because I'm always buying books. But seeing lives enriched, relationships formed, and the excitement of children and families who are being touched by story is worth all the sacrifice.
If you're on the fence about starting a library of your own, don't hesitate. Your life won't be the same.