Resolve this year to intentionally become a library patron

Why? Because the library’s mission is to empower, enrich, and enhance the quality of life for all through equitable access to information, services, and opportunity. What’s not to like?

Go to the Enoch Pratt Library and look around. The closest is the Pennsylvania Avenue branch at 1531 North Ave., but the best is the main library at 400 Cathedral St., downtown. It’s an architectural gem. If you have an old library card, dust it off and take it with you.

Too busy to visit? Think of something less important in your life and skip one session of that thing. Or think of someone you want to get to know better. Tell them what you are doing and ask them to do it with you. Make it a fun, bonding experience. Have lunch or drinks afterwards.

Talk with the librarian as you are verifying your library card. Library cards are intentionally easy to get, even for people without traditional forms of identification. If you have old fines, pay them cheerfully and chalk it up to the cost of creating a new self. Sometimes old fines can be forgiven, and if the library can forgive you, maybe you can forgive your old self.

Whenever you want to read a book, ask whether you really want to OWN that book. Do you want to mark it up and refer to it often? If so, then actually buy it. But if you want to just read it, check whether it is available at the library. The Pratt has a great online catalog. If the book is not immediately available, it should be easy to put a hold on it and pick it up by the time you are ready to begin.  Go to

This next step is optional, but if you can afford it, your experience will be even better. Get an envelope and mark it “Library Fund.” Put it someplace safe. Set a price per book – perhaps whatever you might have paid to an online store like Amazon, say $20. Every time you borrow a book, put that amount into your library fund. When it builds up, make a gift to the library and congratulate yourself. But if something important comes up, like an urgent charity appeal or a high electric bill, dip into your library fund guilt-free. The library is not demanding payment. Appreciate the grace and pleasure of the non-commercial interaction.

Finally, think about your library experience. Remember that the library is a government institution. Whenever you have a bad experience with another government agency, remind yourself that it doesn’t have to be that way. Resolve to do what you can to make other government agencies act more like the public library.

–Steve Howard