Thursday, July 16, 2015

Libraries and Love

First printed in 2009.  The feelings are still the same.

I am living an embarrassment of riches.

After several months of waiting not all that patiently, I reached the top of the reserve list for Sara Paretsky's latest oeuvre . It now shares a shelf with Linda Fairstein and James Patterson and Anne Perry and Faye Kellerman, occupying the space just vacated by Patricia Cornwell. I am surrounded by library treasures and they didn't cost me a dime. I just had to show up with some identification and a utility bill proving that I actually live where I said I live and that was that. They gave me a pretty library card

(actually, it was mailed to the address I gave them..... just in case I had forged my gas bill, I guess...) and welcomed me to the community.

I've thanked Ben Franklin for the idea before, so I won't go there right now. Instead, I'm just going to gush. I've loved libraries in ....

Chicago under the Fullerton El tracks, from whose stacks I read all of Agatha Christie, armed with a xerox-ed list of titles which I crossed off as I found them on the shelves.

Ithaca under McGraw Tower, where the Andrew Dickson White Library

Courtesy of the

was the scene of some epic naps curled in the sofa looking down Libe Slope, but also where I rediscovered reading for pleasure after graduating in December but hanging around campus til May.

New York City's iconic Main Reading Room, waiting patiently for a minion to find my title within the vast expanses of the shelves to which they, and only they, had access, then sitting on my wooden chair at my section of the wooden table with the wooden barrier between my work and my neighbors' and feeling smart.

Tiburon, basking in the glow of a peninsula coming together to raise a proper library and, in the process, creating a community center touching 5th graders working on a project in the glass enclosed group room and AARP members learning to send emails to their grandkids at the media center in the middle of the room and gardeners sharing their bounty -- you have to love a place that has a waiting list for those who want to donate one of the weekly arrangements.

Oceanside, where Miss Carroll remembered my name and always had a really really good suggestion for me and where no one laughed when I said that I was going to be like Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and read all the books in the library in alphabetical order.
(I got somewhere into the B's before I gave up....)

So today, when I realized that a Jeffery Deaver novel had taken up permanent residence in my trunk, I stopped in to return it and pick up Hardball. The self-check-out terminal gently directed me to the Information Desk where I was informed, regretfully and sorrowfully, that I owed $5.50 in fines. I handed over a crisp Lincoln and, before I could get into my change purse the librarian said, "Oh, y'know what, this will be just fine." And she closed the cash drawer.

I was stunned. This was a debt I had incurred knowingly - I had seen The Broken Window in my trunk for 2 weeks, and I'd received an email reminding me to return it, and I'd driven past the library or forgotten it when I'd gone in and I owed them the whole amount and I was going to pay it. I had 2 quarters and a nickel and I made her take the extra 5cents because I was making a point:

Libraries are to be cherished and supported and nurtured and skipping out on fines just is not right.

But I waxed even more eloquent, there at the Information Desk, in front of this poor librarian who was only trying to do me a favor and make me smile. I went on to taking responsibility for one's actions and from there segued nicely into there have to be consequences and was just about to launch into specific examples when I realized that there was a line of people behind me and that, perhaps, just maybe, it might be possible that my voice was a tad louder than the inside voices good parents insist be used in libraries.

I took my book and left.

1 comment:

  1. I love libraries too. I think that's why I've scheduled my son's tutoring at our local library. It makes me go every week. And although I purchase all of my books in electronic form now, I still love going to the library. I'm not even certain why. Maybe it reminds me of being a kid and having to learn the Dewey Decimal System? Not even sure why, but when I take my son there, I relax and read while he is tutored by his old teacher. Wish we had pretty library cards like that. Ours are plain green.

    You just reminded me too that I have books to return for the kids. I try to keep them all in one area at home so they don't get lost or mixed in with our own. My little guy has probably checked out all of the dinosaur books in the kid's section.

    Hope you are enjoying the conference and visits with friends.

    Megan xxx


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