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Beyond the books: Your library's worth a closer look

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:46 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2013 12:35 p.m. CDT

My St. Joseph County Public Library card is broken in three pieces and held together with packing tape.

This is less of a testament to its frequent use but rather speaks to the fact that I acquired the worn piece of plastic when I was in kindergarten in 1995.

Thus, I had no idea what I was doing as I applied for a library card at the Newton Public Library the other night — a decision that came as the result of an article I stumbled upon during my weekly office hours.

According to a study conducted by the Jenkins Group in 2003, 42 percent of college graduates never read another book follwing the conclusion of their studies.

While one can only hope that with the advent of e-reader devices over the past decade, these numbers have dwindled, the statistic struck me for one particular reason: I fell into that 42 percent.

Technically speaking, I’ve only been a college graduate since August. The past seven months have been a whirlwind of moving back in with my parents, a brief stint making lattes at a bagel shop, moving back to Iowa and finally settling down in Newton. While some days I feel like I don’t have time to breathe, I didn’t think it was a great excuse for not having read a single book since graduation.

I hunkered down at the circulation desk, filled out an application, and within moments had a brand new, shiny library card that was — most importantly — all in one piece.

This is where the difficulty began. The last time I was seriously into reading for pleasure I was a teenager, which usually landed me in the teen fiction section amid cheesy romance novels and edgy coming-of-age stories.

I had an ambitious desire to delve into a classic, but wasn’t sure where to start. I recalled my favorites from American Literature class in high school — among them “The Great Gatsby” and “Brave New World” — as well as those I was assigned but hardly managed to page through (sorry, Mr. Hayden).

This led me to chech out just one book: George Orwell’s “1984.”

While I’m only a few chapters in, I can’t explain how much more relaxing it is to come home from work to a cup of coffee, my cat and a good book as opposed to whatever terrible reality show happens to be on TV.

While I realize reading, and literature as a whole, don’t appeal to everyone, I do urge you to at least give your library a second look. Aside from novels and reference books, the Newton Public Library offers music, DVDs, cookbooks and hobby guides, and even e-books available for checkout on e-reader devices and tablet computers.

Take a hour to re-discover your library, and make a promimse to yourself not to leave empty-handed. Even if it’s just a DVD set of the first season of “Friday Night Lights,” it’s a step in the right direction.

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