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Booking It

Andrew Forsythe

I SPENT 40 YEARS practicing criminal law, and there was always a lot to read: police reports, lab reports, probation and pre-sentence reports, motions, orders and court opinions. These were required reading and there was little time left to read for pleasure.

One of the great joys of retirement is the freedom to read a lot—and whatever I choose.

Which, in this season of reflecting on the things we’re thankful for, brings me to one of mine: public libraries. Since this is a personal finance site, let me add that—when it comes to great buys—it’s hard to beat libraries. For just a tiny slice of your tax dollars, the benefits are enormous.

I confess I may be prejudiced. After I graduated from the University of Texas, I wondered what career to pursue. My sociology degree didn’t exactly open a lot of doors, so I was casting about.

The university offered one of those aptitude tests that would indicate which careers most suited me. Given my introvert streak, I wasn’t too surprised when the results listed my No. 1 potential career as “librarian.”

I ultimately went to law school but never lost my love of libraries. A quiet spacious room where you can dive into a smorgasbord of books is my idea of a great place to hang out.

We’re lucky to have several libraries within an easy drive, but the one we frequent most is the Lake Travis Community Library. Not too small, not too big, it’s a real jewel. For a fee of exactly nothing, you get:

  • A wide variety of books, magazines, movies and reference materials.
  • Classes on a multitude of subjects, both in person and online.
  • A subscription to Kanopy, which offers foreign, older and cult streaming movies you won’t find on the better-known streaming services.
  • Interlibrary loans so you can request a book from another library.
  • A great staff that happily entertains suggestions for new acquisitions.
  • Handy online features such as “bookmarks”—a list of books you intend to read—and “history,” which lists books you’ve previously checked out. The latter can be helpful for those with an imperfect memory.

In our de-cluttering stage of life, libraries also mean no additional crowding on the bookshelf. While e-books accomplish the same, I’m one of those dinosaurs who likes books made of paper that you hold in your hand. I’m quite happy to go online for news and research, but when it comes to books, I’m old school.

Finally, a library encourages experimentation. I’ll often check out a couple of books by authors I know and love. Then I’ll add an extra volume by someone I’m curious about—one which I never would’ve risked purchasing.

So, I’m appreciative of and thankful for my local library. In fact, when I die, just send me to that great library in the sky. Oh yes, and please make it dog friendly.

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