Still hunting for the perfect gift? Try your local library
If you haven’t started to panic about finishing your holiday gift purchases, you should probably start … right about now.
Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, filled with mice clicking and online carts filling, and holly-jolly trips to the post office to stand in line. If only we could rely on someone to drop gifts down the chimney. That would take a lot of the stress out of the holidays.
It is hard to escape the focus on the material this time of year, but here in Grand County we have a lot of non-material things to be thankful for — close community connections, fresh air and open space, and, of course, a top-notch library system.
Grand County stretches over 1,868 square miles, larger than the whole state of Rhode Island. The library district is one of the few entities that provides services across the county, with a library in every town except Winter Park and Parshall. That’s a lot of space to cover and a lot of books to provide. However, today’s libraries are a lot more than books.
For one thing, the library is a place. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been reminded of the importance of community spaces in which we can gather together. Libraries provide that valuable space, and with no expectation that anyone who enters will spend a red cent while they are there. Commerce, for once, is not the point. Service is.
Speaking of service, among the greatest gifts the library offers are the librarians who work there. This year they saw new challenges that they turned into opportunities: collecting books for curbside delivery and painstakingly preparing bag after bag of take-and-make crafts and projects for all ages.
On my last trip into the library, I was offered — without asking — two luminary kits to make a festive bag of light with my son. Just as the librarian suggested, we sipped hot chocolate and peeled stickers. When our creations were complete, we placed them on display in our front windows.
For those of you hoping for a more socially distanced holiday season, there are countless ways to use the library without stepping foot inside. How about downloading an audiobook on your phone to listen to as you cross-country ski? Watch an award-winning documentary on Kanopy? Or read the Denver Post without even going out in the driveway to collect the paper. Who doesn’t love the gift of free data? The libraries now have hot spots that you can check out and use for any reason, like to stream movies or Facetime with your nana.
And let us not forget the bread and butter of libraries: books. At the start of every year, I create a reading challenge for myself. I try to read as many books as I am years old. (That number will remain a mystery for now, but rest assured each year it goes up). Thanks to the many hours of social isolation, I surpassed my goal in 2020. If I had purchased all of those books, I would have spent close to $700 — more than I am able or willing to spend, even for books.
If you have finished your shopping, congratulations! Now you can focus on celebrating what the holidays are really all about. Libraries are a great place to support your current traditions or to discover new ones. Cookbooks abound with recipes, music CDs don the shelves with carols tucked inside, and Christmas anthologies await with pages of stories and poems.
Or, if you have a chance, pick up a take-and-make kit and sit at the table with a cup of hot cocoa and a loved one. Because, for me, the best gift of all is a few uninterrupted moments with a 9-year-old boy, a white paper bag and a handful of stickers.
It definitely feels like Christmas.
Anna Szczepanski is an enthusiastic library patron who lives in Winter Park. She works for the Colorado Library Consortium as their Western Regional Consultant for small and rural libraries.
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It’s the oldest saying for many employees in the business up here: ‘I came for winter but I stayed for the summer.’