Library Love: How I Traded Scrolling for Stories and Curbed My Social Media Use

I always loved reading. There were three children’s books that I read (by memory, is that still reading?) to my dad every night for at least a year or so. I loved one of those books so much that as a kindergartner I thought it would be a good idea to read one aloud in the school talent show. However, tragically, the night of the show I came down with a stomachache and was unable to go onstage. This was right after my best friend rapped “Parents Just Don’t Understand” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. Perhaps my stomach understood what my audience of peers would appreciate more than I did.
The same stomachache came back a few years later, right before I was to go onstage to sing a Gloria Estefan song. Weird.
My bookworm tendencies continued through elementary school. I still remember running downstairs one night to share the exiting news that I had read an entire Baby-Sitters Club Little Sister book in one day. I had a pile of old books I found in my grandmother’s basement. I took a rolling cart from the pantry and loaded it up with all of my favorite books, parking it next to my bed. I reasoned that in a fire, I was going to roll this (40 pound?) cart (down two flights of stairs?) out of the house to save my most prized possessions.

Reading was life. 

I also loved the library from a young age. I would check out hoards of books, hauling them home in a big bag. My best friend and I would play library together, and as we got older, we were allowed to walk to the library together in the summertime to check out books.  (Once we got in trouble for drawing devil horns and coloring in the teeth of the models in an issue of TEEN magazine we had checked out. Quite the rebels.)

I continued to enjoy reading into adulthood. I read for pleasure (when possible) through college and graduate school. When I met my husband, I had a bookshelf full of books, and I enjoyed spending time browsing bookstores. 
My husband bought me a Kindle e-reader back in about 2010. I remember when I first opened the package, I thought, “oh, this was a waste of money, he shouldn’t have gotten me that.” (Wrong.) I went on to order books and read them there. For awhile I traded my old books in at a local used bookstore for credit, but after our last move, I did a serious purge, and I don’t have anything to trade in anymore. It was easier and less expensive to order books on my Kindle, so this became my new mode of reading. 

As time went on and social media became more prevalent, I read less. Umm, there was also the addition of two kids, so that might have played a small part.

Thanks to my stats on, I can tell you that I read 22 books in 2012, and by 2017 I had only read one.

I found it easier to scroll through Facebook than to read an actual paper book while I was holding and nursing a baby all day long. My Kindle was one of the originals that wasn’t backlit, so I can’t read it in the dark. I don’t think I realized the value of the Kindle app at the time. Reading fell by the wayside, but I had a new “hobby” (ugh, I shudder to call it that) of reading Mommy Blogs and wasting time on Facebook. (While it wasn’t all pointless banter, I’ll save my praises for Facebook for another post.)

This was my reality until the end of last year.

One of my Facebook friends told me (see? valuable…) that I could borrow e-books from my local library. Again, it’s really hard to read a paper book with kids, at least with my kids. Someone always seems to want to be in my lap. There are constant interruptions, pages would get torn, my place would get lost — I just know better than to even try. Plus, I don’t always remember to bring my book with me when I leave the house in case I have a few minutes to kill in a waiting room.
But e-books are totally doable, especially now that I have started using the Kindle app. I tried it out at the tail end of 2018, and was pleased to be able to read a few “newer” books right off the bat for the grand total of $0. 

When New Year’s Resolution season came around, I pondered what I wanted to change in my life. This was around the same time that Apple introduced Screen Time to the iPhone, so I was painfully aware of how much time I was spending on social media each day. I committed to cut down on social media and increase reading.

I’ll admit I haven’t stuck to my plan 100  percent; I still look at social media after 8 p.m., and I have dismissed my self-imposed “screen time limits” on social media apps more than once. However, I have already increased my reading so much. For example, in 2018, I read 12 books. It’s only March, and I’ve already read nine this year! In fact, last month the Military Moms Blog Book Club revealed the next few books (so people could get on wait ists for library loans). I had already read all three! Score!

(Side note: Yes, we have a book club! You should join us! It’s very low-pressure, no one will notice if you don’t read the book or don’t contribute. But it’s fun to talk about a book after you read it!) 

My secret weapon to my success has been the library — just like when I was a kid.

You see, if you borrow an e-book, at least from my library, you only get two weeks to read it. If anyone is waiting for it, which is highly likely, there is no renewing. I found that out the hard way as I was lollygagging my way through a book and lost it before I finished; I had to wait a few weeks with it on hold to get it back and finish it. But this deadline of sorts motivates me to stop scrolling mindlessly and open my Libby (or Overdrive) app to read my library loan. (I can’t take you step by step through which app to download because I just sort of stumbled my way through. I asked at the library as to where on the website I should get started and then my librarian guided me as to which app to download and how to search available books, as well as how to put others on hold.)
I like e-books from the library, too, because it’s nice to check out a book with no financial stake in the game.
If I hate a book and want to abandon it, it’s no big deal. And these aren’t just old, has-been books. While I have read a few that aren’t necessarily familiar titles, others I have to wait a month (or more!) because they are popular bestsellers that everyone is reading and talking about. 
So get your tail down to your local library to get a card if you don’t have one already. Or if you still have one from your last duty station, use that to go to the library website.
I also was recently reminded that Amazon Prime comes with Prime Reading, where you have access to hundreds (thousands?) of books for free.
Sure, you are paying for your Amazon Prime, but that money is long gone and well spent so this just feels like a bonus to me. There also are First Reads,where Prime members get to choose one of six books to download for free each month. Again, no stake in the game if you hate the books you choose. I am working on my first one now and it’s so-s0; bit if I decide to quit and not finish it, I won’t be annoyed. (I decided a few years ago that life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy just for the sake of finishing them.)
Finding ways to read books for free has rekindled my love of reading and cut down on my mindless scrolling. I feel better about how I am spending my time. I also have more interesting things to contribute and share with friends and family, and I am sure my brain is better off for it. 
Please comment with your favorite book(s) you read in the last year, so I can add more to my (never-ending) “To Read” list on Goodreads


  1. Oh, Gretchen, this warms my heart! Libraries are soooo much more than books. You also have music available, makers spaces, all kinds of things to ‘borrow’, kids programs, community programs, etc., etc., etc.
    Jeff (the youngest Beavers fella) is now the Assistant Director of Library Services in Conway, NH. He worked for LCPL for a while but was offered this wonderful opportunity. People that think libraries are obsolete or do not take advantage and support them do not know what they are missing.
    THANK YOU for this post from one that LOVES her books and Libraries VERY, VERY much. It is an every 2 week outing for me and my grandsons…they love reading/books/the library as much as I do 🙂

    • That’s so great that Jeff works there! They also have a story time at our local one that I used to take Annika to, and plan to take her back to the library to read books (her favorite) this summer when she is out of school!

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