Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Library Love

I love libraries. I find them to be one of the last great historical institutions. I hope they never, ever go away. If you must: read all your newspapers on line, upload or download all your books onto one of those electronic book reader things (who cares if it can hold 18 books?! who can possibly read 18 books on vacation?!), and buy every best seller when it comes out. But, if you want an experience that is just a bit closer to the soul...head to the library. The small, neighborhood ones are the best. Though "main" libraries have something to show off (an art hanging, or fancy tables with bright lights) it's the little, tucked away ones that have the most heart. I don't buy books anymore. Well, not current ones anyway. I would buy an old copy of Atlas Shrugged, if I didn't already own two. Or, I might buy a great book for someone else... but, for the most part, I'm a library go-er.

I go in without a clue. I don't know what I'm looking for or what I'll find. I stroll through the isles like I've got all the time in the world (and really, I only enjoy going there if I do!). I scan the spines and look for a title that grabs me. If I like the look of the cover or the title, I take it off the shelf and read the first few pages. If the story doesn't grab me in the first few pages, I place it carefully back in it's spot for the next reader to find and move on. And I like to go alone. It's hard to judge 'library time' with someone else. Inevitably, one person is ready to go before the other and it might be right in the middle of a crucial isle scan or when you're in the depths of the reference books that can't be checked out and you're not walking away from that just 'cuz someone else is "bored." Bored? In a library? I don't get it.

I recently started going to a new branch. The branch that is nearest to me is closed for renovations for the next year or so. That was heartbreaking for me. I was in there a few weeks ago, doing what I do, when I walked to the counter with my arms full of books and asked about the return date (I'm still not used to the receipt-like-print-out and really miss the days of stamping the due date right into the front of the book--it just makes sense!). The guy behind the counter told me I'd get three weeks on the books but they were closing tomorrow. I felt tears well up in my eyes...

"WHAT?! What do you mean you're closing? What is this world coming to?! Gads! Why does everything good and old fashioned and community based have to end?! Why?!"
"Um, no, miss, we're just closing for a year or so, for renovations."

Just then, another local patron yelled across the room, "Yeah! If you don't like it, complain to the local (somebody or other). They're the ones ruining it for all of us! They're the ones closing the libraries just to fix them up!"

Well, I wanted to say, fixing up the library wouldn't be so bad. Would it? I mean, they're finally going to update the bathroom and that, my friend, is fairly important. That particular library's bathroom rates as the worst room I've ever been in. So, I decided to look on the bright side and find myself a new branch in the meantime.

Which brings me to the book I've just read and need to rave and rave about: Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You.
Yes, yes, I know it came out last year. Heck, I even posted about it. But I didn't actually get around to reading it til now. And it is just wonderful. I knew it would be. I didn't even read the first few pages before checking it out. I just leaped and dove and started happily swimming in it immediately. Wow. I don't care what the nay-sayers say about her and her quirks. It was like this girl had mined my deepest thoughts and combined them with her own weird twist and type, type, type...there it all was on the page. I have one more story to read and my books are due on Friday (I've resigned myself to actually writing down the due date in my calender because I can't keep hanging onto that receipt!)and, I think, as a treat to myself, I'll save the last story to read in the library and then return the book. It's that good.

The other major bonus to heading to the local library these days: they're getting hipper! The card at the top of this post is my new library card. That's right! As I was sniffing around my new branch the other day, I came across this little sign that said I could turn in my old card for one of the new designs. I seized on that one p.d.q. and, now, I pull it out with pride. Everyone else is jealous of my new library card. I'm secretly hoping it'll make them all library go-ers too!


Tessa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tessa said...

we must have been going to the same library - i was so sad when it closed! i've been going to the mission one and i love the building it is in.

the new cards are so lovely.

Ellen said...

My favorite job in college was re-shelving books in Widener Library. There were all sorts of underground tunnels connecting different parts of this HUGE library and I'd spend hours in the stacks, shelving, reading, and being happily side-tracked by dusty, fascinating, titles. When we went to my 25th reunion last June the only place I wanted to show Michael was the library. What a magical place.

my love for you. said...

kate, from your new favorite blog for me- for you, sent me that book and i just LOVE it. i'm slowly reading it...cause it's that good. i just love miranda july. i think she rules.

have you read any lorie moore? this book really reminds me of her writing...

have i asked you that before? i all of a sudden got deja vu...hmmmmm.