Thursday, February 12, 2015

Ode to the Public Library

This is a story of dread and loathing, with a happy ending.  Grab a snack, then go check out Kelly's library post, over at The Well-Read Redhead.

When I was about seven, I took out some books from my local library and then...never returned them.  Had I lost them? Were they returned and someone forgot? Destroyed somehow? No one knows, no one remembers - all I do know is that from then on, I was blacklisted.


Am I being too dramatic? I think not.  Every time I went, they would ask me where my books were.  The shame! The panic! The sweaty palms of my seven and eight-year-old self could not hold on to any more cellophane-d books, so I stopped going.  I couldn't take out more books until I'd paid my fee, and the mountain of fear and dread I felt every time I walked past kept me from going inside.  (Okay, I was a little dramatic).

Lest you think I am exaggerating, that perhaps the volunteers at our local village library were warm and friendly and I was just a brat, I present to you this image (which I did not create), which accurately represents my frame of mind when approaching the checkout desk in elementary school:

(Someone eventually paid my fee, my parents were not monsters.)

I don't think I went at all in junior high school.  I read my books for school, books I got as gifts, and borrowed from friends and family.  I read voraciously, and would save baby-sitting money for trips to the bookstore.  When high school rolled around, I had gained enough courage to wander around and read while I was in the library, but there weren't too many there that I wanted to take out anyway.  Small towns have long memories, and I guess I was pretty shy in some ways as a kid.

College was where I learned to love the library, and where I eventually worked.  They had a section on the first floor for popular books and magazines, and a whole corner decked out with cushy chairs and space to read.  I loved taking out DVDs and reading while I was at the gym or waiting for class.  I liked checking out books and helping people reserve things they wanted to read.  When I would go and get someone's reserved book, I liked talking to them about what they were reading, or even just seeing what book they'd picked out.  I learned how libraries worked.

From then on, I was a library aficionado.  What really sealed the deal was when my sister, not at all a fan of e-readers, got me a Kindle for the holidays while I was living and traveling overseas.  I borrowed books like a fiend and took them with me wherever I went, minus the $25 extra weight luggage fee.  I also brought a regular book or two with me, but Harry P and the Weasleys could come along with no angst.

When I first came to DC, I got a reader's card for the Library of Congress (anyone can! you should do it!), went into the main Reading Room and actually got a little bit choked up.  It was so, so beautiful.

Long story short, I love my library.  I love the fact that I can walk there and have books sent to me.  I love the things I can learn there, and the way it helps me explore the world (and write papers, and find jobs).  Most of all, I love the fact that there are no late fees.

What do you love about your library? Were you blacklisted like I was, or do you always return things on time?

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