Linda goes to the library

I love reading. This is due to the fact that my mother read to me when I was a baby (according to my mother). However, a bit like dating an Eastern European woman, my love is becoming rather an expensive habit.

While there are several excellent second-hand bookstores in Berlin, they’re either very far out of my way, or not really that cheap. Wandering around Dussmann leaves me dizzy with desire, high on “new book smell” and, usually, broke. Books from Amazon cost next to nothing, until you factor in the postage and packaging. And, before you suggest it, I abhor the idea of e-books; I’m old-fashioned like that.

Oh Dussmann, she sighed longingly... (Image taken from
Oh Dussmann, she sighed longingly… (Image taken from

So, what was a girl to do?

As you may have guessed from the title (clever you…), I decided to join the library. Armed with some free time and the determination to tackle yet another German institution, I walked five minutes down the road to my local Bibliothek.

Lankwitz Library
Lankwitz Library

Deciding that I would “save” my German for when it was absolutely necessary, I slunk past the reception desk to see what they had on offer, and yes, to see if there was an English books section. There was.

Joy of joys!
Joy of joys!

It was time. I eyed the two women behind the reception. One was rotund, jolly and bespectacled; the other was rake thin, had classic “Bürgeramt Face” and was also bespectacled – a bit like a German, short-sighted librarian version of the odd couple. Anyway, you can imagine which woman I chose to assault with my German language skills.

I sidled up to the desk and told her that I would like to become a member. She smiled jovially at me, started shuffling things around on her desk and babbled away happily in German. Thankfully, I understood most of what she was saying. I dutifully produced my Anmeldung (registration document) and my passport. She explained some more stuff. I nodded, smiled and muttered “Ja” over and over again in an appreciative manner.

Then she surprised me by offering me a choice of colours of library card – have you ever heard of such a thing? I certainly hadn’t. I grinned at her and chose siren red. Or just red. Whatever…

I handed over €10 and she handed me my shiny new best friend.

It's so PRETTY!
It’s so PRETTY!

Even though we had conducted our entire exchange in German, she clearly wanted to give a nod to my native English-speaking ways, so she started rummaging around for some pamphlets in English. She managed to produce leaflets in French, Spanish, Vietnamese and Arabic but, sadly, no English.

I assured her I could understand the German version (probably) and scampered back over to the English books section to have a proper look. There was the usual fare like Michael Connelly, John Grisham, and Tom Clancy, chick lit (i.e. stuff I don’t read) like Maeve Binchy, Cecilia Ahern and Nicholas Sparks as well as a few classics and welcome surprises. I selected a couple of books and went back over to my new library mom.

She informed me that it was all electronic and that I had to do it myself. I looked dubiously over my shoulder at a computer.

Libhilde: NEIN! Not that computer! 

Me: Ummm…

Libhilde: Do you want me to help you? 

Me: JA! 

I promise I wasn’t faking helplessness. I’m just bloody useless at times.

Libhilde marched me over to a contraption beside the door and instructed me to place my card in front of it. I waved it around and the machine asked for my PIN. I entered it. Libhilde beamed. She then placed the two books on a scanner and both titles popped up on screen. I hit a button and we were done. My jaw dropped.


Me: Wow, this is so much more modern than Ireland! 

Libhilde did that reluctantly proud face that only Germans can do and I left her to get on with her day. On my way out, I realised that the last time I’d set foot in an Irish library was probably close to three decades ago and they’d most likely updated things a bit since then. Still, at least I’d made someone’s day.

In case you’re wondering, my €10 gets me a year’s membership and I can use my card in every library in Berlin – there are a lot of them. If I want a book that isn’t at my local library, they can order it for me and I can either pick it up there or they will deliver it to my flat. There is a wonderful website (that I’ve spent half the afternoon playing with), where I can do pretty much everything from the comfort of my own living room. And, in the event I do leave my flat, they even have free toilets – a rarity in Berlin.

This might just be the best €10 I’ve ever spent.









105 thoughts on “Linda goes to the library”

  1. Wheee! That’s exciting! I used to try to read kids books in Spanish and Italian, and oh man…sometimes…translations aren’t always exact! I will say, I applaud you on your old-fashionedness. I have three (yes, THREE) Kindles, and I still prefer paper books.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. At last!
    The secret is out! Seriously though, I love this post and I love libraries, and yes, I have a library card! I confess that I used to use it more when my son was younger. He likes reading too you see, so we would collect 10 books from this library, this library, and that library! Also computer games. Bargain. As it’s free!

    I do put a lot of books on my kindle but when I need the old classics or British “teenage” books or “the making of ” huge 1970 TV books, then the library is the best bet as well as BBC video classics! Good on you girl!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, yeah, one thing at a time but I feel like I’m finally getting there! 🙂 I’ve almost finished the two books I took out last week so will be heading back there shortly 🙂 Such a great resource to have!


  3. I love libraries! My little one-room library in my hometown saved me when I was a little girl: as long as I had a book to read, I was content. I hear you about the cost of books. We’re cutting back on how many books we buy and plan to utilize our local library more once we’re retired. My husband thinks he would buy much fewer books if he bothered to check them out of the library first (he tends to read nonfiction) 😉 And that is $$ well spent if it gets you into all of Berlin’s libraries … awesome 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree! I read fast and I can’t afford to buy books every week! I was the same when I was a kid – people hardly knew I was in the room haha! Always had my head in a book!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Ha, I took out two books last Tuesday and I’ve almost finished both of them! The first one was a thriller and I flew through it 🙂 I have a lot of “dead time” on trains though! I don’t think they’ll get any opportunity to fine me!

          Liked by 1 person

              1. Once a long time ago I was on a train and knitting with straight needles. I must have been going at a good clip when one of my needles flew out of my hand and landed at the feet of another passenger a row ahead of me. I was rather embarrassed but the young man thought it was funny.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. That’s why I don’t knit on planes anymore. One time I brought knitting needles in my carry-on luggage and asked the ticket agent if it was okay. She said yes and then marked my ticket. My bags were searched at each security stop after that. So, no more knitting needles when I fly ;(

                  Liked by 1 person

                2. Oh, but couldn’t a pencil be used as a weapon? It’s all so ridiculous! Once TSA confiscated a jar of honey from my husband and this last trip a corkscrew because it had a blade. A tiny blade suitable for cutting the foil off a wine bottle. And it was still in its original packaging. I probably spend more time trying to figure out what I can or can’t take on a plane than I spend packing ….

                  Liked by 1 person

                3. Ha, I know, it’s madness. Maybe I could paper cut someone to death with my book… 🙂 They took my tweezers off me one time in the States. Luckily. The damage I could have done – all that plucking… 😉


  4. yup, things with libraries are easy now. a decade ago some of the libraries I used to frequent had electronic cards and self-check, but almost all of them had separate reader’s cards, so you ahd to carry a bunch of them and to remember PINs for all of them. Now I hear most use the same card, so it’s so much better. But since it’s difficult to find anything really new o read them – due to high demand and few copies of new books – I still end up broke when it comes to books

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, yeah, I’m sure I’ll still be making some purchases as well! Good to hear Lithuania has updated their system as well! Maybe you’ll get a choice of colour 🙂


  5. I was super surprised when my library in Brooklyn got the auto check-out computer too. I go to the central branch so there is a small cafe inside which serve delicious pies.

    How awesome that they’ll deliver reserved books to your door. That’s worth the 10-er!

    But I think the nicest library I’ve been to is Bibliotheek in Amsterdam. There’s a full service cafe with a balcony that overlooks the entire city.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great, a few people have suggested that! I’ll be sure to check it out. Will get through this month’s selection first 🙂
      Yes, mini-café, loos, info on all the local goings-on, internet – you really could spend the day there! There’s a festival coming up in my little town this weekend – will have to pop along!

      Liked by 1 person

              1. Bears may like electronic books. I don’t know a lot of bears, so I can’t say for sure. Picture it though: I throw the tablet at the bear. It sits down and starts to read. I stop just long enough to snap a photo with the fancy phone I don’t have.

                Moral? Always keep at least one picture book on your tablet.

                Liked by 1 person

  6. …. and when into libraries … have a look at the newly restored Lesesaal of the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin Preussischer Kulturbesitz (tha’s a NAME. for non-germans to dwell on) it is at Unter den Linden, and on one side is the book fleamarket of the Humboldt Uni (don’t know wheather every day… and it’s been 10 years that i bought all MY. english books there, usually at 1€!)

    i throughly enjoy your articles. Noch viel Spass bei uns … and the invitation to a Swabian meal still holds true. if ever in the area of stuttgart or tuebingen. ihre uschi reber

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I’ve bought a couple of books from that flea market as well! Nice reminder! And the LSzBPK – it would have taken me all day to type that out again 😉 I will be in Stuttgart at some stage and I will hold you to that! I like Swabian food 🙂


  7. Linda Goes to the Library… it sounds like the title of one of those horrible books you get at school when you’re learning to read. “Lucy and Tom at the Seaside”, that kind of thing.

    We had the electronic checkout thingies at uni. If something went wrong they would start beeping, LOUDLY! You can imagine the glares that got you in a library where people were trying to study!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was thinking the same about Ireland. I’m sure there are foreign language books, but to have all of the information in so many languages? French, Spanish, OK, but Vietnamese?? I highly doubt it. Wonder if we’ve even got Polish – considering it is now our second language 😉


      1. I think where I am we would have the info leaflets in a few languages (Polish and Urdu I imagine as they are the most widely spoken languages after English where I live) but not so sure about the foreign language books. Next time I am there (which is not as often as it should be because I just can’t resist a bookshop or supermarket book dept) I must have a look.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m the same – like a Bisto kid (I guess you’ll get the reference!)
          I guess we’d need Polish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Mandarin… And I’m damn sure we have a version in Irish that’s of very little use to anyone 😉


  8. Libraries are wonderful. We just got those fancy checkout machines a year or so ago. They look like Star Trek devices. I was expecting an alien to beam down. Libraries are one of the best deals remaining in our capitalist world. Glad to hear it is true in Germany as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha ha! Well, I’d expect them to have them at the big central libraries but I live in a small suburb so I wasn’t sure! It was a pleasant surprise 🙂 And the lady was so lovely 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, well I don’t plan on ever leaving! I was telling a German the other night that the Germans are my spirit people. He just looked confused 😉 I love them for that too haha!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Gee, sounds lovely. I feel tempted to try out my local library in Pearse Street and see whether they can compete with the top-notch digitalised German lending terminal…
    Oh, and if you still like owning a book and need an alternative to Amazon: have you ever tried eBay for books? Of course, you are still left with postage costs, but you can snap up the books for a Pound or a Euro. And if I lived in Germany, I would definitely use where you basically swap books. There’s a 49c fee per book, and you pay postage, but Deutsche Post only charges 1 Euro for a Büchersendung, so it’s worth it.
    Enjoy your local Bücherei!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, cool, thank you! Tauschticket sounds like a great option! I’ve never tried eBay… There are various “book swap Berlin” pages on FB but usually involve travelling and hassle as well – there are people who PM before I’ve even looked at what’s on offer haha! I’ve put some pretty recent titles into the library search option and they’re there so I’m pretty impressed by the whole operation 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Returning to a simpler time 🙂 There were quite a few people there. That could also be because it takes so damn long to get internet here and they have free wifi and internet access. And cheap tea and coffee. The library has got it all! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

                1. What a great name 🙂
                  And yes, I totally get that. Any friend would be like the equivalent of the “bored husband/boyfriend sitting outside the changing rooms” and I don’t need that kind of pressure 😉

                  Liked by 2 people

                2. Exactly! That’s scarred me a bit! A couple of new books and a coffee and a cake there would probably be the same as my rent 😉


                3. That’s the dilemma! Last time I was in there, I spent over €40 just on books. Another tenner on tea and cake would have blown my budget for the month 😉 Maybe for my birthday haha!


            1. I don’t want to hijack these comments, but I’ve been meaning to tell you about a book you might enjoy since you both love languages.

              Jhumpa Lahiri usually writes fiction, but she has a new book, In Other Words, which is a memoir about how her love for learning Italian led to hear moving to Rome a few years ago. She wrote the memoir in Italian and it was translated into English by someone else. I’ve only read excerpts, but she describes her intense desire to be completely fluent in Italian.

              Her father was a librarian, so maybe that fits with this post anyway. 🙂


              Liked by 3 people

  10. I have also recently discovered a love for my local libraries. Despite the fact that I am a trained librarian (though one who hasn’t worked as one in over 15 years), I had always preferred to buy my own books but when we moved to Paris, I finally parted with pretty much my entire collection and decided to not rebuilt my personal library. In Paris, I mostly managed my addiction to reading by buying used books which I would then resell when I was done with then. I often wondered how many time the bookstore would buy & resell the same book. In Montreal, the used book offerings aren’t as good and public libraries are free to join if you are a resident so I decided to start borrowing books. And there is no going back…I haven’t bought a book in over a year so I am richer but I haven’t had to give up on my addiction!!! (Suzanne)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It really is the perfect solution for people who move around! I couldn’t begin to count the amount of books I’ve given away/sold over the years… I would love to have a massive collection of books, but it’s just not practical in my current apartment! Some day 😉 But until then, the library is my new best friend 🙂
      P.S. Something really tickles me about a librarian who buys all their books 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I know it is a bit strange that a librarian wouldn’t use libraries but to my defense I never worked in a public libraries but always in corporate libraries before moving to other roles…I guess as a librarian I wanted to create my own private library and I have over 1,000 books when we decided to move to Paris…lots of books to sell or give. I only kept a few hundreds and sometimes I wonder why I did…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, hundreds. I would love that but they would take over my entire apartment!
          After all, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” 🙂


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