There are, it appears, two kinds of book lovers in this world: the folks who love the library and the folks who don’t. I’m in the latter camp.
Other book lovers seem to have a phobia of libraries. They want to own their own books. Besides, librarians are sadists who are just looking for an excuse to slap you with hundreds of dollars in fines! Who can keep track of when books have to be returned? Who can figure out all this online renewal and hold stuff? It’s frightening. Not to mention all that Dewey craziness. And the library doesn’t have Starbucks.
Am I afraid of Libraries? Probably not. I’m more disappointed in them. In my adult life I’ve only visited them for specialized information and left confused. Where were the greats in the field I was searching in? Granted, I have no idea how to properly search for books in the library, but still. Aren’t libraries supposed to to be a repository for the best of our civilization? It make me wonder: has God decided to flood the world again then? Only this time in worn Tom Clancy paperbacks? Perhaps, I’m just a low-rent elitist or, maybe, a sucker for nobility.
I used to hang out in the local library as a kid, though. On Saturday afternoons I would ride my bike down there, check out a stack of books, find a table, read them and then return them. I repeated this strange cycle for a few hours, then left with one or two books. Yes, the librarians laughed at me. Who wouldn’t? Check the books out then go home to read them, kid.
I’m sure I read a few hundred books that way but only two stick out in my mind: The novelization of Jaws 3 and a novelized sequel to E.T.. That and a short sci-fi story about a man who was cursed to remember everything, never forgetting a face or a moment, who, of course, winds up an amnesiac in the end, never realizing what he has to be grateful for. I have slightly better taste now.
I would just rather own my own books. I’m sure you would too. Think about how you feel when you lend out a book. It’s not the loss of an investment that pains you when it doesn’t come back. It’s the feeling you lost a friend. Even if you never read that book again you can still recall the time you had together when you pick the thing up off the shelf. You form an intimate association with it. Checking a book out of the library is more like a conjugal visit – it just gets the job done.
And I’m not sure about the appeal of Starbucks – the book stores I frequent usually have people outside looking for change for a coffee but never a coffee shop.
How do you feel about the library?