23 May 2006

Library Renegade

As a kid, I loved the library. I lived close enough to our local branch to walk over on my own and did so often that I knew each house along the route by heart. Sadly, at some point in my teens, the library turned into a research facility and then dropped out of my life altogether as my paper-writing days waned. I’ve tried to reignite the glory days, testing libraries in each new place I’ve lived, but have always been disappointed. This branch has hours only an unemployed person could possibly use. That branch has staffers specially trained to make you feel guilty for borrowing materials if you look even remotely moneyed enough to be able to buy your own. Eventually, I gave up and did exactly that, leaving the libraries of the world to those less fortunate than I and pretty much filling up all the wonderful, floor-to-ceiling bookcases that lined two rooms of our house. And then, we moved.

Without fabulous built-in bookcases, the 23 boxes of books we had were stuck without a home. Our few portable bookcases filled up fast. We diverted five boxes of paperbacks to a neighbor in the old street. Two more were liquidated at a garage sale in the new ‘hood. The remaining twelve boxes are stashed in the spare room, a cardboard reminder that we really shouldn’t buy any more books.

For a time, magazines sufficed. We signed up for a few publications, read them and recycled them and reveled in having something to read that didn’t require shelf space. After a while, though, we realized something was missing, namely books. We missed reading books.

So, in the name of being frugal (both financially and in terms of storage), we visited the library in our new town….and there was MUCH rejoicing.

Our new library has useful hours. The staff are polite and helpful and generally seem happy that people are using the library. Best of all, you can access your library record on-line and reserve books – the library will call when your reserved items are ready to be picked up and you can swing by to get them. The only thing that might make me happier is if they delivered.

For two years, we’ve been exemplary library patrons. We’ve had the odd fine but we’re generally very prompt and typically feel a mix of shame and sheepishness when returning something late and paying a fine….until now. You see, I’m in the middle of a rather weighty tome that came with a very short borrowing window as a lot of people have holds on it. Also, because of the holds, you can’t renew it. I’m enjoying the story and there is no way I’ll be done by the due date, so I figured I’d return it and just buy a copy. I can probably loan my copy out to two or three friends and might even read it again myself – it would get quite a lot of use. I mentioned my plan to a librarian friend, bibliofilly. She looked at me incredulously and said, “Just don’t return it. Really, it’s not like the fine will crush you – it’s only ten cents per day.” This from a librarian? A directive to willfully not return a book on time? Riiiiight.

I’ve been stewing on it, though and, in thirty-two minutes, I will officially be a library renegade. My heart is already pounding a bit. I know when the book is due. I know where the book is. I’m just not bringing it back! I am sitting here specifically NOT leaping into my car with the book to get to the library before it closes. Worse, I’m going to take it out of state at the weekend. Chris can speed all he wants…if there are flashing lights in the rearview, it will likely be the literary police looking for my overdue book.


bethie said...

i have spent my entire life in shame for my tardy lib. books, esp. since mom is one of them, until i met my friend lauri, who works at the angola branch. she has maxed out both her daughters and her husbands card, in addition to her own! she renews until it is no longer possible and then she is late with them. i feel freedom!! besides, i live in erie county -- they need the $ !

Spice Girl said...

So what's the weighty tome that you're risking hellfire and damnation for? :)

bibliofilly said...

Why is hanging on to the book such a radical concept? People who have no intention of paying fines lose books all the time and then argue stridently about why they shouldn't replace the book. People abuse and even vandalize books and other materials and then abandon them without any concern for paying fines.

When I worked in a branch I used to forgive the fines of anyone who came to me with a legitimate reason (I think fines are silly anyway - they're too small to be punitive, too small to cover replacements, and actually cost the library money in time when you consider someone has to man a cash register, count change, go to the bank, etc).

Considering all the horrible excuses people come up with, wanting to finish the book should be *rewarded*!

karen said...

"The Emancipator's Wife," by Barbara Hambly, is the offending tome. I'm still not done with it and I would still recommend you all pick it up sometime. May I suggest you not try to get it from my county library system? You might have to wait a while...

Is, "I wanted to finish the book" a good excuse for a delinquent return?


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