Thursday, March 08, 2018

Library card

For the first time in years - possibly decades - I have a library card.*

This is a bit embarrassing. I live just a few blocks from the Mill Memorial Library. I am an active supporter of libraries. I have friends who are librarians. I have a great love of books.

But I have a love-hate relationship with libraries. I have always felt that any book worth reading is worth owning**, so in my lifetime I have amassed a collection of thousands of books. I read and re-read these books at my leisure, sometimes leaving a newly-purchased book unread for many months (or even years), sometimes setting aside a book I have read and enjoyed to be picked up and read again much later.

With library books the rules are different. The book does not belong to you. You have a set time in which you may read the book, at the end of which you must return it or renew your loan. If you would like to read it again sometime, you may check it out again, if no one else already has it out. I don't like reading on a deadline. So I have preferred buying to borrowing.

In recent years I have found my relationship with book-buying changing. I will walk into a book store - and locally, that means Barnes & Noble, since Walden and The Tudor and the Village Green and the Book and Record Mart and all the other chains and local bookstores have been closed for many years - and look at all the books there, and I will realize that I cannot justify spending that kind of money on that book.

So there are a great many books by Neil Gaiman, and Flannery O'Connor, and other authors, that I would like to buy, and would like to own, but I cannot justify the expense. The library offers me an possibility to borrow and read these books without the expense of buying them.

After I got my card today, I browsed the stacks for a while and saw that Neil Gaiman's "Good Omens" and "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" are both on the shelves, ready to be borrowed. I wasn't ready to block out the time to read these books just yet, so I left them, maybe for someone else to borrow and read. Perhaps on my next visit...

*When I was in Ireland in 2006, I stopped at the local library in Mitchelstown to use their internet to check my mail. To use this system, I was first required to get a library card - at a charge of two euros or so. I realized this was the coolest souvenir ever. I have that card tucked somewhere with the assorted ephemera of my visits.

**On today's visit, as I do every time I walk into a library, I checked out the books for sale. I found copies of "Collapse" by Jared Diamond and "The World Without Us" by Alan Weisman, both of which I already own, but have misplaced, and "One Second After" by William R. Forstchen, which I have heard good things about, but have so far found dreadfully written. I bought these three books for a dollar. Not a dollar apiece; this was a "bag" sale, where you could fill a standard plastic grocery bag with books and pay a dollar for everything.

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