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'Charlotte Helgeson'

Sep 11

Personal Library vs Public Library by Charlotte Helgeson

Posted to Campbell Unclassified on September 11, 2020 at 1:25 PM by Genesis Gaule

It doesn’t have to be an either/or question. For me, it is most certainly both. My personal library overflows throughout my home. Oftentimes, piles of materials from the public library sit alongside my personal collection.


Why have both? There are a number of reasons. 


First, is personal preference. Listening or reading a title once is my usual practice for fiction. I’m glad that the library has the material available for me to take home, but most of the time it isn’t something that will gain a place on my shelf.


Nonfiction on the other hand is a mix of public and personal. I enjoy memoirs, but few make it onto my bookshelf. Reading other people’s stories is like a good conversation. I do not want to have a repeat of the same conversation so to with rereading a memoir. Some of my favorite nonfiction are the stories of the untold pieces of history. Fascinating, but again, not something I’ll read twice. Definitely picked up at the library rather than purchase.


I have never purchased an audiobook, but I do listen to them. They all come from the library, either books on CDs or eAudio. Stories I listen to are not the same stories that I read. A whole other assortment of stories best heard rather than my reading them. Even as a grandmother, I like to have a story read to me.


Secondly, access is important. The books I do purchase to keep forever are those I will refer to on a regular basis. I won’t be reading them from cover to cover again, but some pages or chapters will be reviewed over and over. I like these books at my fingertips. These books can range from cookbooks to anatomy books. I also collect fairy tales and fables from around the world. I consider them to be references for my own enjoyment and they can be beautiful!


Third, cost plays a big role. Ooh-la-la, books and audio can be so expensive. A past Library Board member was shocked when she found out the price of a brand new hardcover bestseller. She’d never purchased one--an avid library user. When I purchase a book, the plan is for it to be a part of my life. To remain under my care and within my reach. It is truly an active investment, not just a decoration.


The fourth reason is how it will be used. If I’m studying a book, I’ll write in it. Yes, I do that if I own it. Cookbooks have my variations. Anatomy and yoga books have my teachers’ words to help me remember the information. The exception are my beautiful fable books. Though they may have numerous books.


If we use the public library, we can enjoy a book, maybe learn something, return it, not have to find space for it and not have to pay for it. What a great deal!


The library benefits from those of us who read outside of it too. If we read the first in a series and found it to be fantastic, it will be a good recommendation for the library to purchase the full series. Libraries have great resources to order books before they’re published, so your recommendation can be in your hand the day it is released to the public and the next in the series will be here as soon as it is available. 


The library also benefits when a book is purchased by a patron for a one-time read and then is donated to our collection. Second copies of popular titles are often added to the library in this way. 


Some of the donations are put into The Friends of the Campbell Library Book Sales or Book Store. We will have them again when we can gather safely. Then we can find another treasure for our personal libraries. The Friends profit turns around and financially supports programs and materials purchased for the library.


The Library provides for the community. The community provides for the Library and all residents benefit. 


This week, I took 2 stacks of books home from the library and ordered one book to stay in my home. The best of both worlds!



Jul 30

Do I Have to Finish It? by Charlotte Helgeson

Posted to Campbell Unclassified on July 30, 2020 at 2:47 PM by Genesis Gaule

close up of a person in a pink t-shirt reading an open book

I’ve started thousands and thousands of books. I’ve finished the majority of them. What?!?

It’s true. I haven’t finished every book I started. They didn’t all hit the spot and there are so many fantastic books I want to read.

This is where the library offers one more advantage. If I check out 2 books at the library and find that the first one isn’t entertaining me or informing me the way I had hoped then I put it aside and read my other choice. Super great idea, checking out a variety to make sure I picked the just right title.

How to pick a book that will take me where I want to go:

  • Here’s my first secret. Read the first 13 lines. Right, a good author can easily catch a reader’s attention in just a few sentences. Often, the first line grabs me and I’m off into a great read!
  • My second secret, if those lines almost caught me then I open to a random page and read only a few lines. Dialogue is good if it is fiction. The end of a subsection if it is nonfiction. If it sounds real then the book will get more of my attention. Even nonfiction books don’t always sound real.
  • I know patrons who read the end first. I’ve never done that and have no intention of trying that approach. Endings can be magnificent, especially when I’m surprised!
  • If still uncertain, my third go-to is to look for other author’s comments on the book jacket. Do I recognize the author and if so, do I like that author’s work? That can sway me.

These guidelines help me choose books for my own reading. Selection of materials for the library’s collection involves quite a bit more work and isn’t nearly as fun.

So back to where I started. How do I decide if the book is going to get better or even amazing when the beginning is ordinary? Excellent question and one our staff discusses often. Some of us have the obligatory, “I started it; I’ll finish it,” mindset. Others go with the first chapter and hope there is a catch at the end that jumps the reader into Chapter 2. Then there is the 100 page trial--way too long for me. I go back to that jump start. If I’m not caught early on there is no chance I’ll push through to the end. My list of must-reads continues to grow at a rate that will outlast my longevity.

To have a public library to try different genres, authors, or formats is a wonderful advantage. Sampling a new book can be like test driving a car or trying on new clothes. Don’t settle for ordinary when there is extraordinary on another shelf!

I’d love to hear how you choose your books. Of course, our friends are a great source of recommendations for what to read next.

In the words of a 3-year-old patron, “I picked this one because it was pink.”

Jun 26

My First Visit to a Public Library by Charlotte Helgeson

Posted to Campbell Unclassified on June 26, 2020 at 1:57 PM by Genesis Gaule

I was 16 years old before I entered a public library.

jane eyre by bronte book-cover

My driving started early on the farm, but it didn’t translate into driving my own vehicle regularly until I left for college. Driving to town usually meant running an errand for my parents, like groceries or going to pick up an equipment part. Those errands never included the public library. In fact, I’m certain I never considered it until I couldn’t get a copy of Jane Eyre at the high school library.  

I didn’t regularly read classics as a teenager, but I was intrigued when a title was not included in our school library and my teachers and librarian would not help me get a copy. What was it all about? Why didn’t they want me to read it?

Curiosity is powerful. 

I walked up the front steps to our brick public library. Straight in from the front door, the circulation desk held court. Nervous, even though I spent a lot of time in our school library, I stood directly in front of the desk and waited for the librarian to address me--in a whisper.  

“May I have a copy of Jane Eyre?”  I asked.

“Do you have a library card?” She knew me as well as she knew everyone in our small town. I’d be willing to bet that she also knew the name on every single Library Card.

“No.” I was prepared to turn around and leave. I had no idea what I was supposed to do to gain the privilege only she could bestow on me.  

“Age.” That was meant as a question though it sounded like a condemnation.

“Sixteen.” She pulled out an application card and continued with the questions until she had filled it with her beautiful script. Without another word, she walked through the doors behind her and I listened intently to make sure she hadn’t abandoned me. On her return, she set the library’s copy of Jane Eyre on the counter, removed the card in its back pocket, wrote my name on it with a due date two weeks in the future and stamped the same date on the slip inside the back cover.  

She looked up at me and said, “As you can see this book has been well used. Be kind to it and I expect it back as you have received it.”  

I was afraid to pick it up. A rubberband held it together. Honestly, I had no intention of taking a deep breath while holding it certain that if it didn’t smell like a Great Uncle then my eyes deceived me. Decrepit, abused or much loved? I didn’t know the difference. I had a public library book. I had a library card!  

I read that book, gently turning each page, breathing shallowly and then returning it--early.