Library Withdrawal

Are you having library withdrawal? I mean, are you missing going to the library? I haven’t been to the library since the beginning of March. And oh, man, do I miss it.

This image of the beautiful Trinity Library in Dublin eases my library withdrawal a little.

I didn’t always check out books when I went. I’d go to write, to research, and to sit and think. My local library is open with limited hours and Cover 19 precautions in place. Still, I stay at home to protect my husband’s fragile health. So I devised a way to visit libraries when I can’t physically visit them.

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of a Library.

—Jorge Luis Borges

What is a Library

Everyone knows what a library is, don’t they? But when you think the word library—what is it you “see?”

Libraries are promoters of literacy, providers of a wide range of reading for all ages, and centers for community information services.

Filled with books, magazine, and oh, so much more, libraries are places of wonder and treasures. 

The First Library

We may never know when or where the first library existed. And for libraries, there are all kinds of firsts. First opened, first publicly funded, first with this or that document and so on. But here are a few “first libraries.”

The world’s oldest known library, the Library of Ashurbanipal, was in the city of Nineveh in modern day Iraq. Created in the 7th century BC for the Assyrian ruler of the same name, it housed 30,000 cuneiform tablets. The materials were mostly archival documents, religious incantations and scholarly texts, but the 4,000-year-old “Epic of Gilgamesh” was part of its collection.

Part of the world’s oldest continually operating university, the al-Qarawiyyin library opened in 850. It is in Fez, Morocco and received a massive remodel from 2012 to 2016. And it’s gorgeous.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery, one of the oldest libraries in the world, is at Mount Sinai, Egypt. Second only to the Vatican Library, it holds the largest collection of ancient manuscripts and codices in the world.

First Libraries in the U.S.

According to Sturgis Library, the Boston Public Library was the first publicly supported free municipal library in the world.

The Darby Free Library in Darby, Pennsylvania, is “America’s oldest public library, in continuous service since 1743.” 

More than a Building

Image of the library in Prague also eases my library withdrawal

Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.

–Anne Herbert

Today’s libraries are meeting places, places of technology, places of learning, and having fun, places that support the arts visual, musical, and written. Libraries are for everyone regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, or financial status. They hold histories, both truth and fiction. Their shelves are real and virtual.

Without libraries, what have we? We have no past and no future.

–Ray Bradbury

Libraries Online

Things get tricky when we look for libraries online. There are many reputable ones, but there are as many, perhaps more, that hold stolen books (also known as pirated books). How do you tell if they pirated the book? Be suspicious if an online library is offering free copies of bestsellers. Check copyright dates. Books published before 1924 are in public domain and may be downloaded. If there’s any doubt, ask the author. Help authors track stolen books.

There are also scammers who offer to sell you titles at discount prices. But buyer beware. You may not get the book you thought you were buying. And if you do—it’s stolen property.

You can’t go wrong with The Library of Congress. The LOC holds hundreds of thousands of books, manuscripts, audiobooks, film, music, maps, and more.

Project Gutenberg has over 60,000 free eBooks. According to the site “Project Gutenberg eBooks are mostly older literary works. Most were published before 1924, with some published in the decades after.” Books published prior to 1924 are in public domain. The status of the books published “decades after” is unclear.

The Open Libraries project by the Internet Archive partners with public libraries to lend digital books to patrons. In the past, this system has respected authors’ copyrights by limiting the number of copies lent out at a time and paying for the right to lend the books. Recently, the Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library would offer “free” books to anyone and everyone. The problem is that this does away with the limited lending and violates the authors’ copyrights.

To be certain you aren’t supporting a pirate, look for community libraries or university libraries that offer digital book lending.

Physical or Digital

The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.

– Albert Einstein

I often prefer physical books but I like digital books, too. However, when it comes to libraries I find I prefer the physical buildings. There’s something special about walking into a building with rows and rows of shelves bulging with books.

Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.

– Neil Gaiman

Are You in Library Withdrawal?

“It was good to walk into a library again; it smelled like home.”

― Elizabeth Kostova, The Historian

I will wait to walk into a library again. But when I do, I’ll agree wholeheartedly with the quote by Elizabeth Kostova above. What about you? Are you in library withdrawal?


  1. I’m mostly an ebook reader, so no withdrawal here. Since I moved, I was able to get an electronic card at my new local library (rather than a regular card, because COVID). I haven’t been to a branch yet, but I’m looking forward to it. I can still get ebooks from my old library too, which is nice because they have different titles available.

    1. Very cool that they gave you an electronic card, Jennette. And that your old library allows you to continue to borrow books. Thanks for sharing.

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