Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why Everyone Should Be Visiting Their Public Libraries

Growing up I spent a lot of my free time in my neighborhood library even though it was a 15-block walk from our house. I'd come home with a knapsack full of books. It was one of the few places I knew my mom would automatically approve without question. Back then my reading lists included anything by Judy Blume, Sweet Valley High and Nikki Giovanni. Sometimes I'd have outrageous fines to pay because I'd forgotten a book was under my bed for several weeks! I recall my local branch was a haven of sorts and all the Librarians knew me by name. 

As I got older my time was spent researching papers, looking for scholarship and college information and listening to Original Cast Recordings for Broadway shows. I always had an affinity for travel books, art books and newspapers across the country. This was all pre-Internet and of course I grew up with a rotary telephone!! Kids have it so easy today, technologically speaking. 

When I moved to New York City I immediately scoped out my favorite branches in Manhattan or the City as those in the know call it. Of course as a budding actor the Library for the Performing Arts was a second home to me and why not? Lincoln Center, the Met and Julliard were a stone's throw away. Also I carried such fond memories of the scene in The Wiz where the lions came to life. 

After moving to California I found a plethora of libraries to choose from. Each city had their own library system, so I could get memberships for Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica! Woo Hoo! By this time computers and CDs were of course all the rage and I enjoyed the variety and sheer volume of materials available. I was in full consumerism mode though and usually bought everything I'd wanted so my library use tapered off considerably. Then a savvy and no-nonsense financial planner came out with the book, "Nine Steps to Financial Freedom". Suze Orman is a very wise woman! She suggested that we cut out buying so many new books and utilize the library more often! Say it ain't so Suze! I had stacks of books that I'd read once and wanted to toss and I realized I could save money. Now some books I did have to purchase [i.e. acting manuals, certain classics] but a lot of things I could definitely hold off on. 

Now libraries provide vital services to those with limited resources and the frugal. They provide computers and printers, a safe haven during the day and a host of other services. Hey, I found an interesting cover on the shelf at the Hollywood branch one Saturday and got lost in and forever moved by Isabel Allende's "House of the Spirits" to which I will always be grateful. Funding is always an issue so if your city isn't making it a priority it's time to rattle some cages. 

Today I checked out 7 CDs and 2 books. I did a special request for these items. If you're willing to wait a few weeks you could save a pretty penny. Now I have one caveat: I must buy magazines, but thank goodness for the sellers on Ebay. Where else could I get a 5 year subscription to Harper's Bazaar for $8? What did I get - an inquiring mind might want to know? 

Annie Lennox - Weapons of Mass Destruction
Gotan Project - Lunatico
Cat Power - Jukebox
Janet Jackson - Discipline
Lenny Kravitz - It Is Time For A Love Revolution
Sia - Some People Have Real Problems
Hotel Costes - Vol. 10
Sheryl Crow - Detours 

Get Yours!  - Amy DuBois Barnett
Dirty Girls On Top -  Alisa Valdes-Rodriquez 

So don't just take my word for it - go find out for yourself. Enjoy one of the great things about this country [all spying and viewing lists aside]. 

P.S. I am eagerly awaiting Twilight! 

P.S.S. Please do NOT say Li-Berry. Major Pet Peeve!!!!!

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