It goes like this: Make a resolution. Try to keep it. Do the thing. Fail at doing the thing. Quit trying to do the thing. Try again next year. Repeat.
So it was with my resolutions to (1) read more and (2) utilize the library, until this year. This year, I succeeded. It was simple: first, I failed a lot. Like resolving to do ten sit-ups when you’re too weak to lift yourself up even once, you sort of writhe and strain and flop, day after day, hating it and yourself; until you refine, from the metal of your willpower, one lousy stinking sit-up. Then you keep keeping at it.
I knew the benefits of being a library regular would be multifarious, but the key to integrating all these benefits in my life was to do it in small steps.
1. Entering The Building
This was the easiest part, because it’s an outing. I work from home, so to avoid going stir-crazy and forgetting how to human with other humans, I need an outing at least twice per week.
2. Discovering What The Place Has To Offer
New releases, multimedia, meeting rooms, computers and printers, classes and workshops, digital subscriptions, a catalog bolstered by interlibrary loans and eBook databases, and welcoming architecture and design, to boot: I could get used to this.
3. Getting Used To It
The first time, I gave myself a tour and got a library card. The next time, I checked out a few items that I knew wouldn’t just sit around collecting dust. I got audiobooks of poems read by the poets, with a specific plan for when I’d listen to them (on my commute). When things are free, it’s easy to take them for granted and not prioritize them. Even e-readers and books that you’ve bought are relatively undemanding and therefore under-utilized. That’s why I started with an easy habit to integrate into my routine.
4. Creating Physical Habits
Writing for a book blog is one way to ensure I do enough reading, but before that? First, I had to break some habits: for a couple of years now, I’ve only been buying books that are either nice collector’s editions, or books that I’m going to read and lend out many times throughout my life. This saves space, resources, and money. So I simplified, and then made a habit of looking at my shelves and my Kindle and actively deciding what to read next. I would pick a book and set a daily reading goal: either time-based (20-30 minutes) or percentage-based (they say reading 10% of a book at a time is a great way to conquer it). In time, I started succeeding more often than not, at which point I could actually justify borrowing books because I knew I would be able to read and return them.
5. Expanding To The Digital Realm
I got the hang of being a library patron the old-fashioned way. The next step was to introduce the newfangled digital realm. I had already used the online catalog because it’s a convenient way to find and reserve exactly what you’re looking for. Next, I connected my Kindle to my library card and figured out how e-book borrowing worked. I found that getting into tangible, physical habits first helped me take full advantage of the digital offerings.
6. Marking My Calendar
From seminars on seed-starting, to writing workshops, from yoga to coloring clubs, there’s no shortage of free or inexpensive opportunities to learn and relax. Have kids? Hallelujah for story hour! They make friends and become book fans, while you meet other parents and relax. There is usually one event per month that appeals to me, so I mark it on my calendar with hearts and emojis and much punctuation. Commit to it as if it’s a date. In fact, make it a date with a friend or partner.
7. I Can Do What?!
The great thing about achieving a goal is once you’re there, you can see unexpected perks and set new, exciting goals. Most recently, I downloaded the Pronunciator app to my phone so that I can practice my Spanish. My library card gives me access to a few language learning apps. Come to think of it, I wonder if they have instructional apps for learning to play piano and guitar…
I think when we set goals, we do so with a vague sense that the outcome will be good for us. In my head, I thought, “Library good. Reading good. Books, yes. Community… stuff.” Now that I’ve succeeded in becoming a regular library patron, I’m glad I took the time and made the small, gradual changes that opened worlds to me. Watch the video below for more reasons to make your resolution:
YouTube Channel: TEDx Talks
Featured image via Phoenix Public Library