Knowing my husband is working late tonight– wait.  I can’t pass this up.  My husband is staying late at Harvard tonight for a meeting of the venerable institution’s Single Molecule Club. That’s right.  This club is comprised of scientists who look at individual molecules.  And it’s a club.

OK.  Got that out of my system.  On to the post.

Since Tim is coming home late, I wasn’t in a rush to get home and cook for myself.  Baseball’s not even on until 8.  In former days, when I was single or more rash or money more available, I might have ended my work day today with a little shopping trip.  Stopping by TJ Maxx “just to see what’s new,” or by Whole Foods to get out of cooking entirely.  Thanks to some recently developed personal restraint, I knew these trips were not a viable option.  But I did have some library books to return from a recent copyediting job, and so rather than drop them in the after-hours chute and pull away, I went inside the Cary Memorial Library.

I have forgotten how wonderful libraries are. As a kid I lived at the library, checking out more books than I could keep track of and reading them all. Dominating the summer reading competitions (whatever the basis for those was).  But there came a time when I decided I wanted to own books, not borrow them.  I bought bookplates and put my name on everything and took great care organizing my personal collection.  That was when I started hanging out at Barnes and Noble instead of the library. (This was before I knew about independent bookstores.)  My books represented some sort of accomplishment, some trophy I could show off to friends.  “Yes, I’ve read All These Books…”

In more recent years, owning every single book I’ve read has become a chore.  For one thing, I didn’t like all of them.  But having paid money and put my fancy bookplate in them made me reluctant to get rid of them.  For another thing, I’ve read a darn lot of books.  There are space concerns, and moving was getting ridiculous.  I decided I would much rather own only books I truly love, and I’ve gotten a lot less picky about their condition, too.  I’ll write in them, dog ear, post-it, whatever.

So although my book collection is back in check, I haven’t spent much time in libraries of late.  Well, this summer, that is going to change.  A half-hour haphazard visit convicted me.  I walked in, dropped my copyediting texts in the bin, and stood there, surrounded by bookshelves, thinking, “I should DO something.”  Unsure what, I walked to a computer station and typed in the name of a book I’ve been meaning to read, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon.  “Available,” it told me.  Hmm.  OK.  On a whim, I typed in the phrase “History of Light”, because I’ve been vaguely interested in learning more about the science of light.  Lo and behold, a list of books popped up and I wrote down the call number for the first one.

Lovely as the Cary is, I found the layout puzzling (perhaps it’s me and my library rustiness) and it took me a while to find Fiction By Author (detoured in Reference and Young Adult).  On the way I passed Recently Returned and then Fourteen-Day Loans.  (Standard is 3 weeks here, so the 14-day items are the hot tickets.)  There I saw a Michael Chabon book I hadn’t even HEARD of, and it’s about WRITING, so that was a no-brainer.  Grabbed it.  I also saw an intriguing title on Charles Dickens, The Man Who Invented Christmas. I almost grabbed that too, but had serious doubts about getting through both.  I’ll spare you all my wanderings (yoga dvds!), but I left with the light book, Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and 14-day Maps and Legends.  (Someone please ping my blog when that book is due.)

I was a kid in a candy store.  No, that’s not right.  I don’t recall visiting any candy stores as a kid, and if I had, I would probably have wished there were books there. Today I felt like cobwebs were blowing off my mind as I looked at dozens of titles I’ve never heard of, by people I’ve never heard of–but maybe I’m interested in.  But maybe could change my world, my outlook, my sleep patterns.

And so now I’m back in my old mode: checking out more books than I can keep track of, destined to pay late fees because I check out more than I can read.  But filling my brain and my spirit, without depleting my resources.  It’s amazing.

And I still have an hour before baseball to decide which book to start first.



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3 responses to “Libraries

  1. Scott

    I hadn’t stepped into a library for decades until my children were born. Now I have been going to them often for the last nine years. For kids who devour books as fast as cheerios and for a stay-at-home dad the library is a resource that I hope will never go away.
    Tip – Use the library’s online renewal feature. They send you an email when the books are due, and if you’re not done, you can renew online!

  2. cathryn

    catching up on your blog… we now live just around the corner from a library – and it’s heaven!!! I was gonig to recommend the online renewal too… and also the request feature… you hear about a book you think you might like, you hop online and request it, and then sometime down the line in the future, they email you to let you know it’s ready… does eliminate some of the randomness, but a feature i love!

    • unquiettime

      That’s awesome (about your library nearness). I do love the request feature! I just got “Food Matters” by Mark Bittman after having it on request for at least 6 months… It makes me love this area that I was person number 300something for a book on globally conscious eating.

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