There's a place where you can read as much as you want, use free Wi-Fi and browse through dozens of magazines. No, it isn't the big name book and music stores that recently went out of business throughout the country. It's your local library.
It's hard to believe bookstores survived as long as they did. I never understood why bibliophiles didn't just go to the library, where everything was free. But the demise of the bookstore chain created a lot of commentary. People postulated it was because there was less interest in reading, period. Others cited new technological devices like the iPad and Kindle.
But is it really any surprise that they closed? You could go in, read whatever you wanted while there and then go home without buying anything. I don't know how they made money. The only real difference between Borders and my library is the coffee shop. Maybe that's something libraries need to consider as their programs and hours continue to see cuts due to funding.
When we're little, we walk to the elementary school library together where the librarians are friends who tell us great stories with emphatic reading voices. Then in high school and college, the library is a less fun place where thesis papers are written and math problems pondered. Maybe that educational association keeps some out of libraries after college, but for me, the library became a great resource after graduation. The Munster branch of the Lake County Public Library was great. I could borrow entire seasons of TV shows on DVD, check out the most popular novels or even request books and movies from other libraries.
When I moved to Chicago, I was nervous to learn a new system, but the Hegewisch branch of the Chicago Public Library has also been great.
I've checked out travel books that flew to Hawaii and back with me, read Nicholas Sparks' most recent works and watched dozens of the latest movies and some old favorites. I hate to admit it, but I've even checked out a few "young adult" titles written by the likes of Stephanie Meyer and that girl who used to be on "The Hills." Please don't tell my old English literature professors.
It sometimes does take a few weeks or maybe even a month or two to receive the latest movies, but using my online profile I can request them the week they come out and am notified via email when I can pick them up. It's really quite a place for young and old alike.
According to the Chicago Public Library website, www.chipublib.org, the Hegewisch branch opened in its current location, 3048 E. 130th St., on Dec. 7, 1991. The almost 20-year-old building features books, books on tape, movies on VHS and DVD, music and multiple computers available for community use. It also has a meeting room, which can hold up to 80 people.
The neighborhood first received library services shortly after World War II in the form of an on-loan fiction collection, which was housed in the basement of a local funeral home. We've come a long way since then.
When people get over the fact that those big-box bookstores are gone, I hope they will start realizing what a treasure trove awaits them at their libraries. They've got everything Borders had but for free. OK, maybe not everything, but you can pick up a coffee on your way home.
For more information, call the Hegewisch branch at (312) 747-0046.
The opinions are solely those of the writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.