We just don't have a great library record in the family. What with my sister being chased out of them by ghosts and my great great great uncle Washington ending up with that huge fine...
Not that I don't read. I do, all the time.
But I'm not that good on libraries. Every time I go into one, I marvel at the fact that they'll let me take some books home for free. Any book I like. Even crime fiction. That is truly wonderful.
But I just don't go that often. There's something about them I find stifling, hospital like. The books don't smell like books should. Even if they're dusty it's an aggressive kind of dusty, not the friendly pick me up and take me home kind.
It's too hot. I have to take my coat off. Sometimes my jumper. And it's not like they have a cloak room, is it? You have to carry it around with you as you trudge through the aisles, looking for the books you really can't do without for your research.
The floor is too hard, or too soft, or too straight, maybe. But my knees hurt within minutes of entering a library.
And then there's all the distracting people. The students. What are they doing here? Why are they looking at the books? Not to read them, my teacher's experience tells me. There's something fishy going on.
The people replacing books on shelves. The people sitting at a desk staring at you. What if I swore out loud in the Islamic books section? They didn't have my book! The one with the call number it took me so long to locate!
Also, you're not supposed to have a phone ringing. But if you've got your iPod on real loud, to drown out the stares and the knee pain, how are you supposed to know that your phone has been ringing on and off for the last ten minutes? Please, people, be fair.
Despite all this, I go to the library regularly now. That is because the next generation in my family actually likes it. At least my son does. They've opened up a cafe in our library (too small, too dark, too many students!) and he loves going there for tea. He loves peering at the man on the entrance desk, is extatic when the man picks up his cordless phone. Steals a look at the ledgers on the desk. Then there's the photo of one of my colleagues, a full sized portrait right opposite the entrance. It's a good photo, and the subject is one of my son's 'people', so we look at it.
Occasionally, after he's had his tea, he'll allow me to go choose a book on the new acquisition shelf, by the entrance. If I'm not fast enough he'll suggest one. Something on Welsh medieval history which I'll kindly decline.
But last time, I did hit gold. I found a tiny book of Emma Goldman's essays. I'd never read them. Didn't know who she was. I loved that she'd written on Wollstonecraft, that she identified with her and sought to apply her arguments to the daily lives of women in the early twentieth century. Discovering her as I was just beginning my research on the Wollstonecraft book was serendipitous. Either that or my seven year old son knows a lot more about feminist philosophy than he lets on.
I liked the shape and colour of the book, even. It was tiny, square, red. Not a big University Press thing with a fancy cover, a logo. Not heavy. The kind of book you can just put in your pocket and forget about.
This post was written for the Weekend Assignment #18: Library books.