Sunday Coffee – Life Without the Library

Every Saturday, I log into my feed-reader to find hundreds of new entries. My library system uses Wowbrary, an RSS feed for newly-ordered books, which updates weekly. I don’t subscribe to the whole of the SAPL system’s new books – that would be thousands and thousands, and I’m not insane! Instead, I subscribe to specific subcategories: Fiction, Audiobooks, DVDs, Young Adult, and Science Fiction/Fantasy. With Wowbrary, I discover when the library has ordered books I’ve been looking forward to, and get myself on the Hold list ASAP. I also discover books I’ve never heard of before, regardless of whether or not I’m interested in reading them. The first year I spent away from San Antonio, I removed my SAPL Wowbrary feeds, and the local library system didn’t use Wowbrary. A few months after the move, I was in a book store and didn’t recognize most of the books on the shelves. That’s when I realized just how valuable the SAPL Wowbrary feed was for me, even if I couldn’t take advantage of the particular library system.

(library landscape)

Y’all know I’m a HUGE fan of libraries and the library system here in San Antonio. I’ve talked about it for years. I don’t buy books I haven’t read except in very special circumstances, and the library is how I fill that gap. Library first is my book motto. Which means the last few months have been hard! In more ways than I anticipated.

So, yes, the library is closed. This means the regular stuff you’d imagine: I can’t pick up my holds that have been there since mid-March. None of the books I ordered before then are moving up in the Hold queue, since no one else can pick up and read their books, either. I have a book on my desk that has been sitting here for months even though I decided it’s not for me, because the drop boxes are closed. I’ve had to order more ebooks, which I’m not generally a fan of reading. I miss the librarians and the folks at the checkout counter of my local branch, who all know me by name. There are no walking events, no Harry Potter Wizards Unite community gatherings, no book clubs, no teen game time, no picking up local newsletters or resources, etc. Just the simple act of walking through rows of books to browse, or checking out the Express shelf for recent items, is highly missed!

But there was one thing I hadn’t really anticipated, though I should have. There’s been almost no Wowbrary activity in months.

It makes sense. I’ve recently found out that many book release dates are being delayed for multiple reasons. Plus, the library isn’t open to receive purchases, so they aren’t ordering very much. I don’t know all the ins and outs of what employees are doing right now – how many are working from home or furloughed etc. Either way, most weeks there’s been maybe five to ten books come through Wowbrary, sometimes only in a single category, and there hasn’t been a single week where books have come through in all five categories that I follow. It’s been a little sad and makes me feel a bit like I’m in a book desert. (Actually, it reminds me of the year I lived in rural Wisconsin, when it took weeks to get books from the library once requested, and when I was so happy and grateful that my library’s branch manager here in San Antonio updated my account so that I could still get ebooks and e-audiobooks from SAPL while I lived there!! They’re the best librarians ever!!)

Yesterday, about a hundred books came through Wowbrary in three of my five RSS feeds. Several were releases from April that I’d been looking forward to, that my library was finally able to order. It’s a good sign! But a better sign is that some of the books weren’t new at all. I saw orders for ebook copies of Germinal, and The World According to Garp, and Cold Comfort Farm. The San Antonio library system is preparing to begin reopening sometime in the near future, and the upswing in orders indicates to me that the action is underway. More orders – and more ebook orders – speak to changes and adaptation.

(my book club at the library, 2012)

I’m excited. The world isn’t as wonderful without libraries. Don’t misunderstand – I want the employees to be safe and I don’t want to open up rashly or too soon. I’m perfectly happy to have digital books or curbside service or whatever we have to do to keep folks safe. But I’m also not going to lie and say that walking into my local branch of the library isn’t going to be similar to moving back to San Antonio after our year in Boston or Wisconsin. The library is my second home, and I’ve missed it.

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
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6 Responses to Sunday Coffee – Life Without the Library

  1. Libraries are closed here in England too 😦 . Hoping they’ll reopen in July, maybe.


    • Amanda says:

      I’ve seen some really interesting ideas about partial reopenings in other parts of the US – curbside pickup and the like. The big problem here is that libraries are much more than just book-related. People come here for the access to computers or internet, for job resources or a place to go with a/c in the summers when it’s 100+ degrees outside. Our local branch partners with various other businesses to give out breakfasts to children of disadvantaged families in the summer, and holds programs for them essentially like a daycare. And we hold early voting at all the libraries, an absolutely essential need for a community with 2.5 million people in it and no holiday or work release for voting. Our local elections were supposed to take place in May but have been pushed to July, and I really hope we’ll be able to get in to vote by then in some form or another. The (very conservative) state has already determined that COVID isn’t an excuse for mail-in ballots.


  2. Laurie C says:

    We’re starting the first phase of reopening libraries here in Massachusetts, but it’s going to be different from town to town. I never heard of Wowbrary and I work in a library! I miss seeing all the new books and the people and having a work computer to work on, but I don’t miss the traffic and the commute!


    • Amanda says:

      The year I lived in MA, I was in the Newton library system, and they’d never heard of Wowbrary there. You also couldn’t see where you were on the hold list, either, so you could never tell how long you’d have to wait for a book. (They said this was because each library, though partnered together, was an individual library system, so priority went to the patrons in that specific system, and your spot in the hold line wasn’t actually like a spot in a line so much. This just seems silly to me. Combine the library systems into one with multiple branches, and then everyone has access to everything more easily! San Antonio has a large library system with about 30 branches across the city, and they’re all treated as a single library rather than individuals. I love that.)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aw, I love this. We use Wowbrary too… it’s a great service! I’m willing to bet your library will do curbside very soon and I definitely hope so for your sake! Most of our local branches are doing that or are starting next week. We are the only branch in my vicinity that is actually physically open. But reading this and how much the library means to me made me so happy. You are the kind of person who makes me love my job!

    Liked by 1 person

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