'Life-changing magic' of library

When I moved my household from Washington, D.C. into storage, I got rid of about 100 books. Some were obvious choices, like the global trade textbook that was required for a class I took in 1989 but irrelevant both to me and the current study of economics. Some gave me pause, like the novel "London" by Edward Rutherford. It's an informative history of the city wrapped up in a gripping 2,000-year narrative, but it comes in at 829 pages and weighs a ton.

As I went through this process, I realized that my decision to keep a book was not solely related to factors like whether I would ever reread it, how up to date it was or how much shelf space it took. Fiction or nonfiction, what it came down to was how the book made me feel. So, James Michener's 1,068-page "Centennial" went into the storage box; just looking at it made me recall staying in bed all weekend when I was 13, coming out only to eat because I was so wrapped up in the saga about the American West.

This left more 800 books that survived this exercise, which no doubt was inspired by "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up," which also moved with me. It wasn't until I had unpacked and shelved them in Hinsdale that I truly felt back home.

That said, my own library is not my only source of book joy anymore. I have rediscovered the Hinsdale Public Library. After years of living abroad in the pre-Amazon period, where access to English-language books was limited, I went straight to the library to get my card after receiving my new Illinois driver's license.

Now when I come across an intriguing recommendation, I paste the title into the library's online catalog search and put it on hold (or even download it into my Kindle right away). I am having so much fun accessing all of these books - and also giving them back for others to enjoy. My own library is still growing, but more carefully, because now I have the library to help keep me tidy.

- Beth Smits of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. This column was first published Jan. 16, 2020.