What Libraries Mean to Me by Sue Latham

Feb 17, 2016 by

Our guest blogger series continues with author Sue Latham telling us of her time living overseas and her struggle for affordable books!

Now is a great time to join the Hood County Friends of the Library. For just $10 a year, or $15 for a family, you can help support our many wonderful programs! Visit the FOL Bookstore at the Hood County Library for more information on how you can become a member today!


What Libraries Mean to Me

By Sue Latham

Imagine a world without books. I know, horrifying thought, isn’t it? For most of history books were valuable items, extremely rare and laboriously handmade. And for centuries after the introduction of the printing press, books were still well out of the reach of the average person.

Why do I bring this up? Because in this age of mass-market paperbacks and digital downloads, it seems to me that we don’t really appreciate what it means to have cheap and convenient access to thousands of books.

Books are nothing less than magic time machines, portals through which you can travel to any time and place in the universe, even ones that exist only in someone’s mind. Through books you can meet people that you would never encounter in person. You can even tap into the consciousness of someone long dead. Books are a means to propagate ideas and knowledge, and people throughout history have given their lives to make books available to people like you and me.

Do you cherish your books? How much do they mean to you? In this age of Amazon, books are easy to come by. Just a few clicks and the books of your choice will soon be on its way to your doorstep—or even better, will magically appear seconds later on your handheld device.

You probably don’t need me to point out that books can be an expensive habit. Then there’s the small matter of finding space on your already crowded bookshelf. The solution to both these problems is, of course, your local library. It’s a no-cost, no-risk proposition that we often take for granted.

I lived in Switzerland in the 2000’s. Bern, where I lived, has an excellent bookstore with a decent English-language section. (I can read German and get by with French in a pinch, but that’s not my idea of relaxing after a hard day at work.) There’s also an English-language bookstore in Zurich, an hour and a half away by train. Quite a few of my hard-earned Swiss francs went to these fine establishments while I lived abroad, and to Amazon in the UK.

Bern has a public library. It even has a minuscule English section–but a library card isn’t free. The yearly subscription fee was the equivalent of around $80.00 per year. Between that and the expensive-to-exorbitant shipping costs from UK and US bookstores, I must have pumped thousands into the European economy.

I lived in Switzerland for almost 10 years. I would have killed for a Kindle, but it wasn’t invented until just before I came home. There were several e-readers on the market, but, frankly, none of them were any good. I had a pre-Kindle e-book reader. Actually, I had more than one—not only were they ridiculously expensive, but they were easily broken. But there was very little content available for them aside from public-domain works. So much has changed over the last few years (and this wasn’t all that long ago.) These days, you can check e-books out from the library. Holy cannoli! Think of all the money I could have saved!

I returned to the States in 2009. I can’t even begin to estimate how many bags of books I had to give away. And I don’t even want to think about much it cost me to ship home the ones I wanted to keep. Now that I’m a semi-starving writer, I have to think about these things a lot more than I used to. You can bet I am a frequent visitor to my library these days. I can put a hold on any item in the catalog and they send it to my local branch library. I hope you appreciate your library, and take advantage of all it offers. They need your support. Plus you’re paying for it anyway through your taxes. Might as well take advantage, right?


Sue Latham is a native of Dallas, TX. She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington rather longer ago than she cares to think about.

She began her writing career many years ago writing online help and technical manuals for the corporate world. In 1998, she landed a job with a small UN agency and moved to Switzerland. The one-year assignment turned into a decade, during which time she traveled extensively. She feels fortunate to have been to every continent except Antarctica. In Europe, she walked in the footsteps of Beethoven, Mozart, Einstein and van Gogh and was once blessed by the Pope. Her travels have taken her to the Nazca desert where she endured a harrowing flight over the lines in a small plane; to Africa on a quest for a glimpse of the rare white rhino; and to the Australian Outback, where she was stranded by a flash flood and had to spend the night in a Subaru.

In 2009 she returned to Dallas and started writing fiction.  Her novels, The Haunted House Symphony and The Science Professor’s Ghost, are ghost-hunting mysteries featuring a team of ghost hunters led by Sue’s intrepid alter-ego, Margo Monroe. Both books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online bookstores as ebooks and in paperback. You can download the latest short story in the series for free here.

Sue Latham’s Official Website

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