Library Love: Why I Prefer to Borrow vs. Buy Books

Library Love

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you might know that I’m an avid library-goer. Seriously — I’m always there, kind of like the armchairs and the much-loved toys in the children’s area. All the librarians know me.

Ok, to be fair, that’s because I work at the library as a shelver. As an actual part-time job it has its own pros and cons, but it’s worth it to be surrounded by books all day (AKA “the Dream”)! My favorite part of shelving is arriving early in the morning before the library is even open to patrons. I go up to the second level by myself to pull holds, turn on all the lights and see the entire library light up before me, and then go into the stacks and bask in the silence while I pull books off the shelves. It’s a near-sacred experience and pretty close to book nirvana, if you ask me. 😉

But I loved going to the library long before I started working there (how do you think I got the job?! Haha). So many of my memories growing up are tied to going to/being at the library. Going there to spend rainy days, sitting in the stacks and reading, predictably getting separated from the rest of my family and having to go hunt them down…

Going to the library and returning with a towering stack of books has always been normal for me. But because it’s the norm for me, I’ve always found it a little hard to understand how people can buy so many books. I mean, you can get it from the library for free, and check it out again whenever you want it!

Think about it… what other public place can you go to to borrow something, enjoy it, and then return it, all free of charge?? And with BOOKS no less? The library is like this precious, magical creature that you can’t believe actually exists. When so little in American society comes without a price, public libraries are practically like unicorns. There’s just so much magic about the idea of a library. To think that all the books you’ve loved before are out there being discovered and loved by someone else. That just sitting on the shelves is a potential gold mine of books that others have read and loved before, just waiting for you to happen upon them. * sighs with bookish contentment *


Of course, that’s not to say that I don’t understand how people buy books at all — I do! I’m always tempted to go back and buy some of my favorite books — especially my favorite series — so that I can have them to reread, or to loan out (read: push onto) people. Or to get signed by the author. Or even just to gaze at lovingly. If they’re some of my favorite books, I’ll always want to have them near.

And a few exceptions need to be made for new books. Sometimes I’ll buy just a handful of new releases that I know are going to be good because of the author or the rave reviews, and the library doesn’t have it.

But recently I’ve been buying books in a way I never have in my whole life, and it’s been a little unsettling for me. It started with buying “beach read” books for vacation, because I didn’t want to damage or lose library books. I’d read them, like them enough, and then bring them back to my bookshelf to collect dust.

Then when I went off to college for the first time. I told myself that I wouldn’t have time to keep up with library books, so I allowed myself to start buying books. But then it was like the floodgates had opened, and it felt like I started buying any book that had caught my interest. I soon found out that not only did I have no time to keep up with library books, I had almost no time to read for pleasure, either. So my books became just a heavy weight to lug around in my suitcase (I’ve since resolved to only bring my e-reader).

And guess what? Now that I’m home, these same books are back on my shelf, but they’re not the ones I’m reading. Instead I’m drawn to the never-ending flow of new releases at the library, or the book I’ve heard about for so long that I just happen to find while browsing the stacks.

Meanwhile, I feel kind of sad looking at the books on my own shelf that I haven’t read, or that I have read but didn’t enjoy that much. What’s the use of having them just so that they sit there? I think the new #booksfortrade movement on Twitter might be alleviating this a little. But if you think about it, it’s kind of like a library system…

So I’ve personally resolved to be smarter about my book-buying habits after my recent buying spree pitfalls. I’ll probably limit buying physical copies to favorites or those few, must-have new releases that get really glowing reviews. A few impulse buys might find their way onto my Kindle, but at least they’ll be cheaper. * invokes “broke college student” line again *


But that’s just me. I realize that I’m incredibly fortunate to have such a gorgeous, well-stocked library near me. Others might be too far away to go regularly, or not have reliable transport. Maybe their local library is small or on the older side, and doesn’t have a great selection. Or maybe a lot of international readers want American or English or ____ new releases that their library doesn’t carry at all, or maybe not in the language they want to read it in.

So above all, I don’t want to guilt-trip anyone who loves their large, well-loved personal collection of books. I just want to share my personal experiences with book-buying, open up discussion, and express my love for the magical system that is the library. Libraries: YOU ROCK!

Anyone else a long-time library-goer? Or have feelings to share about libraries being magical unicorns? How do you feel about borrowing vs. buying books? Share your thoughts, I want to hear it all!



  • Although I haven’t been using it as much lately, I am a huge fan of the library. The one in my city doesn’t have the best YA section, but it’s still pretty decent. I make use of their ebook selections as well through OverDrive. It’s really convenient! When it comes to new releases, I often buy because my library tends to take a while to get them in. On the other hand, if there is an older published book I want to read, I will most likely check it out at the library to save some money. I love the look of having tons of books, but I’ve come to realize that it’s ridiculous. Some of them are just sitting there collecting dust.
    Sarah @ The Reading Petal recently posted…Review: The Cage [The Cage #1] – Megan ShepherdMy Profile

    • Yay, another library fan! That’s too bad about the YA section though, they should work on that! OverDrive is really nice, I have yet to try to send the ebooks to my new Kindle but I really should. It is pretty hard to resist buying some really good new releases — and if you forget to place a hold for them as soon as you hear about them, you’ll NEVER get them! A room full of well-stocked bookcases is really beautiful, but books are a lot more than just decoration! When they just sit there, it feels like they’re not being used to their full potential, ya know? Definitely with you on that.

  • Book nirvana indeed, I’m always that weird person who strokes the bindings as I pass the shelves. I can’t keep my hands off all the books! And I knOW, borrowing stacks of books from the library was a weekly ritual when I lived in Canada but in the Middle East, there are barely any public English libraries (okay, I’ll be real: there are none in my country) so that ritual has been replaced by saving every penny in order to buy a basket full of books from the 1 overpriced bookstore in the entire city (or drive all the way to the next city just to visit a more updated store). Yeah, it’s kind of depressing. But bless The Book Depository and the mailing crew for still letting us enjoy books as much as we can!

    • YES to stoking the book bindings, I was considering putting in something about “fondling the books” buuuut then I thought that would be going a bit too far, haha. 😉 When you say there aren’t any public English libraries, do you mean that there isn’t even a small English section at the library? So sad :'( Then again, I know at my library we only have a tiny section for French and Spanish YA books (it’s a bit bigger and in more languages for children and Adult books). The saving must be hard, but there must be nothing as motivating as saving for a really good book! Book Depository must really be a life-saver.

  • Krystianna says:

    I am absolutely a huge fan of libraries! Honestly, before I even think about buying a book, I see if my library has it first because like you said, it saves a lot of money. I’m all for that! If I end up completely loving it and finding that it’s a new favorite, then I will definitely go buy a copy afterwards but other than that, I just return the book and that’s the end of it. My library doesn’t have tons of new books, but it does have some that I really have wanted to read. Great post!
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian
    Krystianna recently posted…Top Ten Books I’ve Read So Far In 2015My Profile

    • YES, more library love! <3 The library is always the first spot I check, too. Who has the money for all the books that makes it onto their TBR? And yes, I’m usually satisfied to return a book after reading it — it’s not like it disappeared or I’ll completely forget it, and I can always get it again. Good to know that you usually find the new releases that you really want 🙂 I also like to “request a purchase” at my library if they don’t have a new release that they absolutely must have.

  • I’m actually going to have to start using the library more often because I have no space for books anymore! I keep stacking them one on top of the other on a corner of the room and it looks very unseeemly. I love libraries, but since I almost always end up liking (or loving) the book I read, I tend to just buy them and take the chance!
    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms recently posted…Review: I’ll Meet You There by Heather DemetriosMy Profile

    • Wow, sounds like you really might need to! For the most part I like everything I read, but I don’t usually see the point to owning something I don’t absolutely love. What do you do with those kinds of books?

  • Annie says:

    I love libraries! Unless an author I love is coming out with something new then I check everything out from the library first to read. Things I like and know I’ll want to reread, I then buy the ebook because I travel too much for work to carry actual books around. I grateful that I have a great library near me so I can pretty much get any book I want to read and I take my nieces and nephews and we spend time looking at books and leave with stacks of them. Libraries are like the most incredible thing 🙂

    • Yes, they are so incredible! I mean, tons of books free to borrow? Nothing else is like that in the U.S. Being close to a good library should be a right, not a privilege. Glad you share my library love! 😀

  • Yes, oh my gosh I LOVE my libraries. I count myself as being very lucky. Very, very lucky. I live in a place that’s quite central, and so there are heaps and heaps of libraries around where I live… so I’m a VERY frequent visitor. (Seriously. Sometimes I walk out of the library with, like, twenty books (without a word of a lie haha) and I get some veeeeerrrry strange looks from the librarians 😉 I find that if I really love a book I borrow — then of course I’ll buy it. I love supporting authors, but I figure that hey, it’s good to give our libraries some love as well 😉 Lovely post! <3
    Kara @ Diary of a Teen Writer recently posted…Does Your Bookish Opinion Ever Change?My Profile

    • Yes, glad you share my overflowing enthusiasm for libraries! <3 And heaps of libraries near you! You’re living the dream. I’m well acquainted with the strange looks from librarians, only now I work with them so I don’t really get them anymore. 😉

  • Jackie says:

    I’m a born again library goer, and it’s changed my life.

    I was a sucker for bookstores during my adolescence, but in adulthood they fill me anxiety. I have to do adult things like budget my money and pay bills, which means I have to be selective about “just because” purchases (like books). So…what book do I buy? Book blogging has introduced me to all sorts of books and authors I never would have picked up before, how do I prioritize which book to buy? Especially since I am 100% a mood reader. I discovered that more often than not, I walk out of bookstores empty handed because I’m so overwhelmed.

    That all changed a few weekends ago when I decided to get a library card. I stalked the stacks for 2 hours and enjoyed every minute of it. I went in without a plan, chose books I’ve never, ever heard of in genres I probably would never have spent money on. And low and behold, I discovered that I really, really enjoy cozy mystery novels. Go figure! And if I don’t like a book, I don’t feel the pressure to keep reading it because I didn’t spend money on it. I just move on to the next book.

    The library has made reading an adventure again, and I love it!
    Jackie recently posted…Five Reasons Why Magical Cats are Awesome (and Five Reasons Why My Non-Magical Cat is Awesome)My Profile

  • […] Lina explains why she prefers to borrow vs. buy books. […]

  • […] already touched quite a bit on my love for libraries in a past post — why I prefer to borrow vs. buy books, my thoughts on why the library system is like a […]

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