I apparently sneak into the library, grab my books, use the self-checkout service and quietly steal out without ever speaking to a soul. It’s a furtive habit. Blink and there’re books missing from the shelf and a digital update on the library system.
It’s sad, if you think about it. I could spend an entire, productive day – on the phone, on the computer and using self checkouts – and never speak to a real person. And I am a heavy library user. I order countless books and movies, frequently make purchase suggestions and get a good number of books through inter-library loans, often getting them from across the country.
But one day I needed to go up to the desk and speak to the librarian and when I gave her my card she scanned it in, looked at my information and turned to me and said,
“Oh, you’re Christina Wehner!”
It turned out that they’d noticed I used their library services a lot and she said it was nice to meet me and put a face to the name.
I now speak to my librarians more and it is amazing how much it takes you out of yourself. I used to go into the library focused on what I was doing, hardly noticing other people because I was so busy thinking. But to stop and speak to someone, you notice them, you notice others, you learn things and you leave with a lighter spirit, feeling more connected to the world around you.
I am, in truth, addicted to using my library, especially the online catalog. It’s a compulsion, an obsession. I can’t stay off it. Some people check their facebook account; I check my library account. Is my book in? When’s my book due? Can I renew? This book looks interesting! I have no time. Oh well, maybe I’ll find time. Let’s order it anyway. Why are there fifteen books for me to pick up? I”ll need a wheelbarrow to get them to my car. Who knew books were so heavy? I’m always staggering to and from the library carrying books piled up to my eyebrows.
“Do you have enough books to read?” One fellow patron asked me last time I was there.
The result is that I am always so busy reading my library books that I never have time to read the books I actually own. I’ve had books I really do want to read sitting on my shelf for years looking at me reproachfully. I promise myself that as soon as I finish the current batch of books from the library, I’ll stop borrowing and read them.
It hasn’t worked yet. They say the first step towards fixing an addiction is admitting you have a problem, but I’ve been admitting my problem for years and I still do it.
There’s just something about contemplating all the things I could read that is so exhilarating. All those stories, all that knowledge, all that could be mine! Sometimes it’s more fun to contemplate reading than it is to actually read. My special joy in life is, when I get home from the library, to flip through and read the introductions of the various books.
The trouble is my eyes are bigger than my brain. Every time I watch a movie I want to read the book that it is based on and I order it. Some novels and movies get me interested in a time period or subject and I order some history books. Sometimes, a history book or biography will spark an interest in a tangential subject. While reading Bob Hope’s biography by Richard Zoglin, I realized I didn’t know much about the Vietnam War and ordered a book from the library. I read an article that casually mentioned Sophocles’ Antigone and I ran to my computer and ordered the book.
“You must be a voracious reader.” One librarian remarked last time I was at the library and strategically arranging my pile in a paper shopping bag. I wish I could lay claim to the identity of voracious reader. My sister is a voracious reader. We both keep lists of the books we read every year and if you look at her list it looks like my library account. All the books I meant to read are there. At least one advantage is that she tells me about what she reads and I get all the advantages of knowledge without the expense of time. I call it vicarious reading. It’s amazing how many books one can vicariously read through other people. It’s an underestimated form of reading.
But whether skim reading, potential reading, vicarious reading, fun reading, serious reading, studious reading, I’d like to thank all the librarians of the world for making it possible!