Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Library Junkie

Over the years I've loved the library in fits and starts.

In my more amorous stages, I'll think it's the greatest concept ever. But then I get fickle. I become enthralled by the glossier bookstores, where books are fresh and new and shiny and slick and, mostly, untouched. Plus, bookstores let you talk out loud and slurp up lattes.

By comparison, the library is like a friend I’ve lost interest in. A friend who feels a little worn, a little old, a little dull and just a little too quiet. Yawn.

I can get get a little squeamish about where those library books have been, too. I mean, think about it. Like, Was someone reading in the bathroom? Did they wash their hands? Were they — gasp! — picking their nose? What the hell is the greenish thing stuck it the binding?

I can make myself a little insane.

But then I look at all the books I’ve bought, some I love and will always have and some that simply sit, collecting dust. Books I thought at the time I had to read, had to possess but which then, suddenly, lost their luster because, quite simply, I had them. I took them for granted. I could read them any time, I told myself. And some, I just never did, perhaps because there was no due date, no deadline.

Some time back I decided to pull the in reins on clutter. Yes, that included books. Why do I need to possess these? I decided to donate. I have kept many. Many, many, many. But plenty had done their duty and no longer possessed me. It was time to part.

Plus, borrowing clearly made sense financially. I mean, here I was donating books that I probably should have borrowed in the first place. If I loved a book that much, I could always buy it later.

And so began my latest love-in with the library. Two of them actually. I play them off each other. One will usually have a book I want if the other doesn’t. There is practically a science to this, you see.

At the moment, I actually have the same book from both libraries. Initially I put holds at each place to see who’d produce first. When both came through, I figured I’d see who’d want it back first, after my three weeks was up. I’d keep the one with staying power.

This is because — of course — I would hardly have touched either book by that time. Oh, I did peruse the book but I had to focus on others first, others that would soon be due.

You see, I can get a little out of control, like a kid in a candy shop. Plus, I am not a fast reader. Well, actually this may have something to do with the fact that I try to read about six books at once.

Plus, it’s an organizational feat just to keep up with my due dates and manage my returns and renewals. When the three-week limit is up, I have to get online to renew. Some days that means one book. Another day it might mean 13.

That’s right. I admit it. I’ve become a bit of a borrowing junkie. At this very moment I have at least two dozen books checked out.

I can be pretty possessive too. Like when I go to renew a book that, I swear, I’ve been meaning to read or at least start but just haven’t gotten around to it. And there it is:

“Item has HOLDS.”

Who? I want to know. Who wants my book? I am so annoyed I immediately put a hold right back on it as soon as I return it. That that! I say.

Luckily many books I like are not new releases so I can renew with abandon. It’s practically like ownership. Of course at the maximum nine-week, three-time-renewal limit point, you do need to bring the book in, regardless of whether anyone else has placed a hold. This always makes me feel like a borderline criminal, as if I’m holding it hostage and they need proof that it’s still alive and healthy.

At that point, if I still want it, I let them check it in and then, if there are no holds, ask: “Can I please take it out again? I wasn’t finished,” I say, feeling like a binge eater who cannot stop going up to the buffet for more. Usually I get it.

What a high: Nine more weeks!

So that one goes to the bottom of the pile.

After all, I have others coming due soon, especially the more popular ones that some greedy person is surely putting a hold on this very moment so they can get their hands on it.

One thing I’m glad about: They no longer print out your entire list of checked out books every time I pick up a new one. I used to get embarrassed as page after page spilled out, proof that I was out of control, no different than someone who orders three meals “to-go” then gets caught downing all them all in the car in the parking lot.

One day I ‘fessed up, admitting I was slightly embarrassed by how many books I had checked out. I was happy to let them think I was using them for research.

That’s when I learned I’m nowhere near as bad as some of those crazy library junkies. Why they’ve seen people with seven pages of materials. With my three to four pages, I’m nothing.

The main thing is, I’ve clearly reduced my financial outlay for books.

As for the clutter? And the time spent managing this all?

Well, as I look upon a bed strewn with books, a wicker basket filled with still more — none of which I own — all I can say is: I’m working on it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. I have the same love hate relationship with libraries. I remember them being such wonderful places of promise and refuge when I was a child.

When my kids were little I took them regularly, we checked out books, puppets. But these books and puppets had to be returned. Which each week just didn't get done. Even when I kept the books on the front seat so I couldn't possibly forget.

Why do they call it a library fine when there is nothing fine associated with them?