I felt like a kid in a candy store – mouth watering as I scanned all the choices, knowing I could select anything I saw on the shelves in front of me. In reality, I could choose just one item. But it could be anything I wanted, and it was absolutely free.

I wasn’t actually in a candy store. In fact, it wasn’t a store at all. It was the Chanhassen Library.

I don’t go to the library nearly as often as I used to. Growing up, I was at the library every two weeks, which was the length of time a book could be checked out. Every other Saturday my mom, sisters, and I would walk the five or six blocks to the public library, then walk back home with our new selections. When my own kids were small, we’d go to the library often – not only to check out books, but to take part in Story Time and other activities.

Even after my kids were grown and gone, I was a regular patron for a while. But then I got busy with other things. And the internet made research easy to do from home. Also, the books I was reading started leaning toward inspiration, “how-to,” and self-improvement – books I preferred to own, rather than read and return.

But I was at the library for a meeting about a month ago, and that’s when I saw the display for the Winter Reading Challenge. It involved a bingo-type card, with the squares listing instructions such as “Read a book with a number in the title,” “Read a nonfiction book,” and “Read a book by a Minnesota author.” After reading a book from each of four levels, you could turn your card in for a chance to win prizes at the end of the challenge. You could enter as many cards as you were able to complete and, as a bonus, you could choose a free book from a special selection at the library after you completed your first card.

That’s what gave me the kid-in-a-candy-store feeling.

It was close to the end of the program when I completed my first – and only – card, so I didn’t expect there to be much of a selection left. I was pleasantly surprised, however, at the number and types of books for me to choose from – fiction from popular authors, cookbooks, spiritual and inspirational books, and a book about curiosity – which certainly piqued mine. I don’t know which I enjoyed more – selecting a book or just perusing the possibilities.

The whole experience reminded me of something I’ve forgotten over the years – what a magical place a library can be. The books and other resources there are treasures that can introduce us to new worlds and new experiences. They teach, inspire, comfort, and entertain us. At no cost but our time, and with no requirement but our interest.

I plan on becoming a regular patron again, and am looking forward to enjoying all the sweet treats I know I’ll find there. Without the calories that would come from a candy store.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on March 3, 2016.
©Betty Liedtke, 2016

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