Lifestyles of the Destitute and Obscure

dazzling and interesting on a shoestring

How the obscure utilize and love their local library

I have a college education.  I am poor.  These two descriptions didn’t use to exist together very often, but thanks to the new economy and a healthy dose of artistic temperament they fit together in my life quite neatly.  During my college years, I used to take pride in putting together funk-ily furnished apartments, dressing in thrift store finds (it was the 90’s after all) and reading all the beatnik-era classics I could get my hands on.
One of my favorite forms of decorating has been to find an old book case, cover it in some ethnic, vintage fabric, plop a trailing plant on top and then fill it with ALL my books and a few nifty albums.  It looks great, and it’s functional—where else would I put my hordes of books?  In stacks on the floor?
Heavens, no!
But these days, I certainly can’t buy all the books I want to read, even when they’re used books (a kind with a history), so that’s why my home away from home is the Public Library.
My county library rocks, and I’m not just saying that because I work there, um, as a volunteer.  Nor am I saying it because come fall, I will be starting my educational career to become the new hot librarian in my town (Ahem, that is a worthy aspiration, no?)
No, I’m saying it because I love to read, I love the services the public library provides for free, and because the best way to be less obscure, or even less stupid when you’re poor, is to read.
Read and learn and get yourself educated.

I, personally, am a card-carrying member of the Contra Costa County Library system— found easily at, as well as the physical edifices in Walnut Creek, Danville, El Cerrito, Antioch, Pittsburg, and all over Contra Costa County.  In the Bay Area, Alameda County has its own library system and Berkeley is an entity all unto itself—no surprise there.  I hear that the Rancho Cucamonga Library in So. Cal “rocks” as well.  That is, by the way, a direct quote—thanks, Aletha.
My favorite part about the library being online is that it can be a lot like shopping, only it won’t cost you a thing.  Unless of course you are naughty and don’t turn your books in on time.  The good news is that you can also renew online, which is super handy.  You can also pay your fines online and thus avoid that stern look from the librarian—you know the one, where she stares over the top of the glasses perched on her nose and hanging from a chain around her neck.  (I can’t wait to get me a pair of cat-eye glasses, complete with ornate chain—a graduation present when I finish school.)
Here’s how you to make it really work for you: if you know of a title or author, or movie title, (yes, they’ve got movies, too, and I only had to wait about two weeks for a copy of Eclipse to come in… but don’t tell anyone that I wasted two hours of my precious time watching it.  My time, but not my money.) just enter it into the search field, let the system work its magic and then, voila, you just enter in your library card number and your last name and tell them when and where you want to pick it up.  It couldn’t be easier, and it enables bibliophiles with kleptomaniacal tendencies to collect books, magazines, movies and cds (formerly know as books on tape) on all manner of subjects.
Currently checked out on my account:

  • Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck
  • the documentary, Grey Gardens
  • Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo (an illustrated children’s chapter book with a darling little pig on the cover—advanced research)
  • The Pebble First Guides to Songbirds and Horses
  • Dance Anatomy
  • The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine, M.D.
  • The New Frugality by Chris Farrell
  • The Disciple Miracle by Dr. Linda Pearson
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  • Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Palacco.
  • Curious George by Margaret and H.A. Rey
  • Food, Inc.

All of which broaden my knowledge of various aspects of my life, Grey Gardens not withstanding, unless I plan to become a reclusive and eccentric old woman who feeds feral cats and raccoons.  At this rate, it could happen.
The other nifty thing about libraries is the free stuff and cool, free events.  I’ve picked up a few old tour books for free, a nifty decorating book for a mere dollar, and taken my child to the weekly kid’s story time (with the ever-so-patient and animated Mrs. B), and to see a Chinese New Year celebration.

Contra Costa also has free coupons available with a library card.
Your public library—you can’t beat the price or selection, for you or your child, and you can’t beat the cool people that work there.  Let me know how much you love your public library and your librarian.

Ciao and happy reading!

ps. I always love a good reading recommendation…


4 responses to “How the obscure utilize and love their local library

  1. Christie May 26, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    Ooohhh, I loooove my library down here in Arroyo Grande. From the comfort of my home, I can type in a book I am looking for. If I see that the book that is not at my local branch, they ship it to my branch for a whopping 50 cent fee. And they call you when it gets there. I also love the renew online feature. I’ve tried story-time with my 2 year old, but he’s not quite able to sit still. They have a table full of puzzles and bins of board books that keep him interested. I have also been known to check out a stack of magazines before going on vacation. I was in the book club at the library with the 70+ crowd for a year or so before I had Landon. Congrats on the career choice–sounds like a perfect fit! Please tell me some good books to read–I’m in a slump. I like anything from classics like John Steinbeck to modern mystery like the Dragon Tattoo series. My suggestions for you? Fast Food Nation (not the movie!) and The Thirteenth Tale (a good one that not too many seem to know about)

    • lifestyles of the destitute and obscure May 31, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      I’m so glad you shared! It really is amazing how many services the library has to offer, and books are such a great way to meet thoughtful people in the community as well as providing a crucial element to a growing child’s world. I just found some great children’s non-fiction– little books about animals and the world around them. We just read a few on horses and one on cats. The series is called Pebble. They’re short but sweet and a great way to introduce toddlers and preschoolers to information. I feel a post about these books coming on, so keep an eye out! As for book recommends, here are a few great ones:
      The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver
      Farm City by Novella Carpenter–non-fiction, a memoir of a squatter’s farm set in Oakland
      The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea– takes place in New Mexico, funny
      Stardust by Neil Gaiman– a ‘grown-up’s’ fairy tale by a master of the genre
      Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
      Little Women by Louisa May Alcott– worth re-reading if you haven’t as an adult
      Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain– a great classic, esp. if you’ve got a little boy
      Empire Falls by Richard Russo
      The Secret History by Donna Tartt– very good, and very suspenseful
      Three Junes by Julia Glass– one of my favorite books in the whole world
      I hope that’s helpful. I’ve got more if you need ’em. I always write down a book– its title, author and a few notes once I’ve finished it. It’s fun to go back and look at notes, and then I’m able to recommend stuff, too.
      Thanks for reading, Christie! I always love hearing from you.

  2. seo January 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

    This design is wicked! You definitely know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

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