Libraries vs. Bookstores

For the next week, I’m going to have a handful of lovely people standing in for me while I’m away on holiday, and today I am so happy to have one of my favourite girls guest posting, Stephany. We’re so alike in many ways and she has a determination to get out there, to write, and to achieve her goals that’s nothing short of admirable. She’s a kind spirit and a genuine friend, and I’m happy to have her helping to hold down the fort today!


First of all, let me start off by saying that I’m so excited Emily asked me to guest post for her! I was honored to be asked. She has been such a great friend and close confidant in the past few months and I don’t know what I would do without her! Thanks, Emily!

I want to talk about books today, more specifically borrowing books versus buying books. I like to say that I grew up in libraries. Ever since I was young, the library was a place I coveted and loved. I felt at home in these special places with rows and rows of books. I absolutely adored the special places libraries created for children with our own special books, computers, and places to read. Being a shy child, I didn’t much interact with the kids who were there, and my sole purpose was to find more books to read. The maximum number of books allowed to be checked out from the children’s section was 12. Every Saturday, I would hop in the car with my mom, zip off to the library, and peruse the stacks of books until I had accumulated my 12 books. I would go home, read the first chapter of each book, organize them alphabetically, and begin the process of reading. I would finish all 12 books by my next visit the following Saturday. In short, I was a bookworm.

I had no limit to the books I would read. I was a fan of popular series books, such as The Baby-Sitter’s Club and Sweet Valley Twins. I loved mysteries and books that made me laugh. I loved to read the books on the special Sunshine State booklist that came out once a year, because they always gave me something more than an ordinary series book could give me. Books were my passion, my life’s blood.

As I grew older, I eventually wandered over to the teen section. It felt weird being there, because by the time I hit middle school, it wasn’t cool to love to read. Magazines, yes. Books? Not so much. Every Saturday, I would pray hard that there was nobody lounging on the couches in the teen area so I could browse the rows of books at my leisure, without worrying that someone from my school would find me there. Yes, at age twelve, I was majorly concerned with appearances. I ventured into the more racy books about love and romance, such as Love Stories and Sweet Valley High. I was majorly enthralled with Nancy Drew and all her adventures. And you couldn’t tear me away from the Christian-based series, Christy Miller. I loved books, all books.

I’m not reading 12 books a week any more. Still, I read about 1-2 books a week and there’s never been a time I have not had a book to read on hand. I am always caught up in some sort of adventure in another world. And I still use the library. I don’t browse as much at the library itself anymore, thanks to the wonders of Amazon, author’s websites, and the online library system my county  offers. At my old library, I could even pick up my books and pay fines at a drive-thru window!

This brings me to my debate: bookstores. I’ve never been big on bookstores. Don’t get me wrong, show me a Borders and I’m all over it like white on rice. I love the smell of bookstores, the feel of bookstores, and the atmosphere. I love being in a bookstore, where it’s quiet and calm, and filled with readers just like myself. There are so many options to choose from, so many rows of books to browse. When I was away at college for a year (which I affectionately call The Year From Hell), the college bookstore was my safe zone. I would spend many afternoons and nights, escaping from roommate drama and loneliness, in this place, curled up on a couch, reading anything I could get my hands on.

One of my favourite places in the world, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland

The problem I have with bookstores is this: why buy when you can borrow? I’ve always been on a very limited budget and I read too much to buy everything I read. The few times I’ve encountered my library not having the books I want, I buy them. But, for the most part, I don’t have a huge collection of books. I’ve been using the library for so long that whenever I need a book, I look there first. There are some authors that I love so dearly that I do buy their books when they come out with new ones, but it doesn’t happen often. The library system I use is so big and vast that I can borrow just about any book and have it at my (library’s) doorstep within the week.

To end this guest blog, I’m a library geek. I’ve been one since I was little and I’ll remain one for life. I just find something special about them. I find something special about opening up a used book, and knowing it has touched someone else’s life right before it will touch mine.

So let me ask you, which do you prefer: libraries or bookstores? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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32 comments

  1. I love this post! I haven’t got a library near me, but since living in London – I’m all for second hand/charity shops for books! I buy them fairly cheaply (with the proceeds going to a good cause), I read them, and I re-gift them back to the store to sell again.. so it’s my tiny part in the grand scheme of things. It saves me from wasting books, though. There is something about libraries that always makes me smile. 🙂

  2. I prefer libraries when I want books that I know I just want to try out.. But bookstores, especially second hand ones, are for the classics and the best pieces of my collections… I love a good second hand shop, I always get swept up in the thought of someone holding the book before me- all the character that resides in the pages.

    1. There used to be a second-hand bookstore in my town that I went to all the time with my late grandmother. Your comment makes me want to find one of these stores again! There’s something so beautiful about them.

  3. Okay so first off, naming all those series you loved just took me back to childhood and made me deliriously happy! I was definitely a proponent of the library when I was younger. I’m starting to get back into it now because I’m part of a book club with friends and while I don’t mind buying books, part of me is hesitant to buy a book I could potentially not like. The only problem is there are six of us in the group so it’s a little issue if all of us want to get the book from the library. 🙂 Great guest post!

    1. That’s my biggest qualm with buying books: What if I don’t like the book?! I love the fact that I can borrow a book from the library and if I like it, I can head over to a bookstore and buy it. (I can also be so picky about my books!)

  4. I used to love the library in the last city I lived in – I rarely went to the bookstore. I haven’t had great experiences with the library where I live now, so I tend to use Amazon a lot.

    1. I’m sorry about your poor library experiences in your current town. I’ve been lucky enough to have an amazing library system around me, which contributes greatly to my love for them.

  5. When I lost my job and had less income I finally got a new library card and started borrowing from the local library. I do love it – that way if I find a book that isn’t great I can always bring it back, no harm down.

    However. I love owning books. I am a rereader and I have reread nearly all the the books in my personal collection. One day I would love to have my own little library room in my home filled with all the books I’ve read. And I hope to have a daughter or son (most likely a daughter, most of my books are geared toward being female) who will one day want to read books from my collection too.

    I think both libraries and bookstores have their place. But show me a building filled with books, whether to buy or to borrow, and I am one happy camper.

    1. I really don’t own that many books and there are times when I really want to start buying books and giving myself a little library from which to pick. Right now, space is my issue but one day, I can see myself with the little library like you described! 🙂

  6. I have always loved libraries too, so much that I even worked there part time in high school and then again in the city where I went to University. I’m not so keen on the library where I live now though so I end up buying or trading a lot of my books these days.

  7. My grandma was a librarian so I really did grow up in libraries 🙂 One of my earliest memories is standing on a chair behind the counter and getting to use the scanner (it was a pen type then, not like a grocery store) to check out peoples’ books! I’ve gone through phases where I’m really loyal to the library and where I buy more books. My problem is that I literally CANNOT go into a bookstore and NOT buy something. It is genetically impossible (which I think might actually be true, given that every single member of my extended family on both sides has the same problem). This is especially true when I’m traveling.

    I’m on a kick now where I’m attempting to not purchase any books until the end of the year. 1) I don’t have the money to just buy books willy nilly and 2) I buy them because I think I’ll have time to read them, and I now literally have stacks of books that I have never read. Such a waste. So it’s the public library for me from now on, and my own…gotta read what I already have! 🙂 LOVE this guest post Stephany!

    1. We had the pen scanner in elementary school and I have to say, I LOVED IT! Talking about it makes me want to buy one. And just scan stuff, for no reason.

      I am the same with bookstores, I find it so hard not to buy a stack of books when I go to the bookstore and with my funds pretty limited now, the library it is for me! 🙂

  8. hhaha i can’t decide; i really love both. i adore the smell of old books, but i also love breaking the binding on new books. i’m so ridiculous that i won’t even let someone borrow a book until i’ve read it. unfortunately, i don’t have much time to read and i haven’t been to a library (for non-research purposes) in years. but i already know that all my future babies will have library cards from a very early age. i want them to love reading as much as i do 🙂

    great post!

    1. Same with me, I’ll definitely be a regular at the library when I have children! There is something about the smell of old books that I absolutely love!

  9. Oh, it’s a tie. I love the history behind libraries, but I love, love, and love owning books and putting them on my shelves! I love to lend them out to friends and family members and return to them in a few years.

    1. My only regret with being more library-sided than bookstore-sided is that I don’t have a big stack of books to turn to. There is something about having your own books that is nice!

  10. I love the library. I always have piles and piles of library books strewn all over my house 🙂 I get a lot of DVDs from the library, too. I have several used book stores in my area that I visit when I can’t find something at the library. The used bookstores are dirt cheap and generally have a pretty good selection. But the library has a special place in my heart.

  11. I am all about libraries! Buying books makes me feel as though I’m “wasting” them by keeping them all to myself.. I guess I’ve always seen them as something that should be shared and passed through as many hands as possible.

    I have a special little place in my heart for used bookstores though. There’s something charming about them that makes me want to spend hours on end browsing through everything they have to offer.

  12. hi stephany!!!
    fun to see you here! my favorite memory growing up was spending summers in Kentucky with my great grandparents and visiting the library then coming home with a stack of books 🙂

  13. I have so many fond memories of the summer reading lists at my local library – it was a fun challenge trying to read all the books on the list in one summer.

    Now that I’m older (and have developed a bad habit of impulse shopping), I tend to buy books more than take them out of the library. This is probably also because my reading habit dropped off in middle and high school, so I stopped going to the library to take out books. I’ve very recently gotten into the idea of hitting the library again simply because I realized that if I want to get back into reading again, I cannot afford to buy every book I want to read.

  14. Library! I love it.
    I always feel a thrill when I walk out with just an armful of books that I’m getting them for free!
    I do buy a few books. I don’t read fiction so I tend to use books for reference a lot. Sometimes, I’ll buy a book that I already borrowed from the library because I know I’ll refer to it again and again, but the Library is still my first choice!

  15. Libraries. Like you, I practically grew up in em. And I read almost all those series you mentioned!

    I don’t know if I’ve ever bought a brand new book in my life. Probably a sign I shouldn’t ever try to get into book publishing, huh?

  16. I use the library a lot. I am committed to becoming more paperless, so I’m trying to cut back on purchasing books. I cannot tell you how many books I’ve donated to my parish or sold on Half.com.

    There are the occasional books that I do purchase, especially if it’s from my favorite authors. However, I purchase them as e-books now. Same goes for college books, e-books all the way. When I do purchase books, I typically use B&N or Amazon.

  17. I love both! 🙂 I used to go the the library every afternoon when I was in primary school, I used to walk past it on my way home and I easily spent the afternoon there, browsing the rows of books and even doing my homework there. I loved it.

  18. I grew up in a one-horse town (population 500), so we actualy did not really have a library… besides the school library which was closed in the summer. I Still feel like i read quite a bit, but usually because I would BEG my mom to buy me the latest Babysitters Club Book or something like that. I inhaled books during the school year, but I think we could only check 2 out at a time or something like that?

    I love bookstores. I prefer to own my books because I want to some day have my very own library. I love to lend books to friends. I love that my friends think of my house as a mini library and they love to come over and peruse my bookshelves for their next great read.

    But, this year, I have gone on a book buying fast! I have been using the library and while I don’t love it, it works. I hate how I have to sometimes wait 2-3 months for a book…. So I guess the impatient person in me prefers bookstores because of the instant gratification…

  19. I too grew up loving libraries! I would spend many hours pouring through books and viewing microfish. Now a days I spend more time in big box bookstores. I will sit and read through books, drink coffee and watch the people. I do understand why borrowing is better than buying while at same time I love owning a book and having it on my shelf to go back to whenever I want.

  20. I love hanging out in both, but in the end I think a great library beats a great bookstore – you can never browse and read for hours in a bookstore like you can in a library.

  21. I have a fairly large book collection, but in recent years I’ve begun using the library or borrowing books from friends. I also signed up for paperbackswap.com and bookmooch.com – these sites let you mail off your unwanted books for credits, then you can request books from other users.

    I buy books that I love and know I’ll want to read again someday, or that I’ll want to let other people borrow. I’m also in a book club and I’ll buy the book if it’s too popular to be available at the library.

  22. Great post! I’m late in reading it but I had to comment because I am sooooooooo a library person. For a short while I was excited about going to bookstores…come to think of it, it was when I was in college when our university library was all journals and reference books and nothing really fiction and fun to read and I never thought about trying to go to their public library. Since I’ve been out of college though I have been back to my library self. I used to go check out mounds of books when I was a kid, too, especially during the summer. I am probably at our library at least 2 or 3 times a week to get more books. I read way too many books to even think about buying every one. There are some that I fall in love with way too much and I have to own, lately they are kids books for my kiddos and I do buy books to have at school for my students to check out from my own classroom library. My heart is with the library though! I’m 100% with you!

  23. I vehemently despise libraries because my freedom to enjoy a book is greatly restricted by regulations and late fees. I like to take my time and my library has a cap on renewals, and if someone else wants the book then I definitely can’t renew it and in order to still read at my slow paced but very savoring speed, I have to accumulate silly late fees. At that point, I might as well purchase the book. Lets not forget that the kind of books I enjoy they have few of. So purchasing is far better. Buying books wins out over borrowing. The real question that should be asked, which is better, new books or used books? I’ll buy used when the savings is $15 to $20 or more.

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