the reader/writer’s ‘credit card’ …

January 28, 2009 § 11 Comments


(Pictured: my first big impossible haul from the library in 2 years

I’ve been a card carrying B&Ner for nearly two years.
I’ve been blithe,  going along with my precious membership card tucked (always) in my wallet.  No, it doesn’t win a major discount but it makes you feel like it does.

Maybe I”ve been just  a little bit picky, you know, in the way that you can be, prefering a book  in its new, pristine state, breaking it in a certain way, whatever’s acceptable, dogearing or not, spine jamming or not, well thumbing the pages or not.

And, call me a snob but I prefer books without odd stains on the page, or yellowed edges or covers in thin noisy plastic covers that rattle and slip as you read. 

There’s a simple reason why I haven’t had a fine at the library in two years. Nor have I had any  out-of-state marshalls looking for me for unlawful library book possession. (I still have one from the library in Bloomfield, NJ and I think one from L.A. …no, I returned that one). 

Anyway, why no fine? Because of  my bookstore cafe syndrome. Buy a coffee, sit down with a stack of books and some magazines, page through them carefully, guarding their perfect appearance, no food, no grease, no sneezes, all to keep them new, and finally discarding some into a  pile that is whisked away by a B&N book-a-rista.

Then ometimes I would walk away, buying nothing, bookless. Other times, I figured, what the heck, why not purchase the mag or book or both and buy it and give it an adoring home.  No, no, wer’re not talking shopping willy nilly for novels, oh no.  As an active supporter of the publishing community, it was my role to participate in book and magazine purchasing.

It was time, however, for a personal intervention.   I sat myself down on the stairway last Saturday in the midst of polishing the bannister (sometimes I make it sound like a do a lot of housekeeping but I do NOT, but I WAS polishing the bannister that day) and decided, why not? Why not head to the library?

It would get HM and me out of the house, it would be a “date,” and an outing that would intrigue HM, the eclectic reader of all readers, and … it would be free.  Was he interested in the library Headquarters? Surely that would be the best place to go.

It’s true that we would have to drive 10miles for the Headquarters Library and indeed there are three branches within 5 miles of our house. But HG has “stacks.”  It has multiple copies of the new books. It has the old books. It has racks and racks of magazines,  to infinity and beyond. It has pleasant employees who love  books and talk about books. These are not the silent, furious librarians of days of yore. The HQ library hires hip people with whacko glasses and angled haircuts and a working knowledge of the  publishing world and they share info, like “I see you have several books here on writing – have you read Carolyn See’s book or Stein’s ON WRITING? I just checked it back in – would you like it? ”
OMG, yes, I think and they HEAR me think it and get it for me.

The parking lot was full at midday on a weekend. Good sign. But maybe there wouldn’t be any books left. I was a little panicked.

We parked in the back and zigzagged across the lot as cars pulled in and pulled out.  It was like the hottest ticket in town or something. Indeed. Just inside the front doors, I was won. Won over. Won again.  I had forgotten the scent of a really good library – you can smell the print, the paper, the binding glue, and the words. Yes, you can smell words, don’t even raise your eyebrow at that one.  

 I was going to shop. I was going to find books and pile them in my arms and walk around like a high school student before backpacks were invented, loaded down with homework – with books!

But first, not wishing to be involved in any snafus at checkout time, I approached the counter with my library card still in my wallet. Horrors! It said “expired Jan 2008.”  They HAD to let me in; they HAD to let me borrow books. My entire afternoon depended on it. My entire weekend depended on it.  I showed my card to a librarian who eyeballed it, asked to see my license and gave me a jazzy new completely ready to use at that very moment library card.

Oh. Bliss.

HM was already gone, having whispered (using his  indoor library voice) something about the magazine section.

I clutched my new card after asking several times just to be absolutely sure ” I can use this card now, today, right?” The librarian likely thought I’d been locked in the attic for years, here at last was Rochester’s crazy bat wife,  but oh, pooh, who cares, I just wanted to be sure I could take out 99 books if I wanted.
“Yes, you can,” he said. “Next?” 
And a little girl came fussing up to the counter.

Good Lord, the Library Card is like a credit card. You can go sweeping through the place and pick up whatever you like and check it out. It’s BETTER than a credit card. There’s no charge. Unless you screw up with the ridiculous two-week return policy (egads, that’s cruel and one of the things that turned me away from the library system in the first place. I was paying their utility bill with the fines I ran up. But there’s a library branch near my office, so this should work out ok.)

I pushed off and shopped, for an hour. I chose books from the New Books shelf, a very dangerous area mind you  because these books are “good” for only 7 days. Then they disappear in a puff of smoke and go back on the shelf and leave you owing a bajillion dollars in fines. Still, I decided to chance one of them.

Then, on to the books in the 810 – 811s. Here I find essays, books about writers, books about writing, etc.  I am sooo (yawn) predictable. Then on to the fiction shelves where I cruise up and down every aisle waiting for things to jump out or suddenly remember one (of the million) books I want to read.

And there was an oversize book (in the Qs) I could not resist. Looking carefully at the picture, you’ll see it. It’s a topic that intrigues. It’s a writer thing.

I hefted my book booty and went looking for HM who had found comfy chairs in the sun near the windodw. Along with several other people.It looked like Date Afternoon. It was lively in a quiet way. It was pleasant. It was nearly as good as B&N, sans coffee.

My first “stack” is on the couch in the office. I’ve read through one and dismissed another. My eye is on the one about writing chick lit next. Just to see. And then a novel, something about a world where you are in the world of the book you’re reading – The Eyre Affair. New to me.

Yes,  I will continute to support the publishing world. I will buy books as gifts. I will talk books, share books, give and trade books, and write books (even if they don’t ever get published in the traditional way).  And I will yammer here about books.

It’s a way to stay connected.


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§ 11 Responses to the reader/writer’s ‘credit card’ …

  • qugrainne says:

    How could you live so long without it?
    What a wonderful afternoon for you. I know the feeling well – I go to the library at least once a week, and I have become very careful about my fines. I am lucky to be able to “shop” the library on-line, reserve books, pay my fine, renew – whatever I need to do, before I make the trip downtown.
    The library is a magical place, and the fact that it is free really does make it even more attractive. You have described it perfectly – the library card is like a credit card, with no payments!!
    I like the looks of Writer’s Houses! I am going to have to check that book out.
    My library even has a coffee shop in the used book sale room.
    I love paying taxes!

  • Bree says:

    Oh I love the library, especially the downtown HQ too. There is nothing like it. The endless possibilities of what to bring home. I’ve banned myself from the library until I get a good portion of my own books read. Your stack looks pretty good. I’ll have to add some of those titles to my wish list.

  • anno says:

    Oh yes, my favorite place! Feels like being on a treasure hunt, a privilege I would gladly pay for (and do, as a non-resident member). Believe it or not, I used my B&N card so little last year, I’m not renewing again it this year.

  • Care says:

    Libraries are awesome places, but sadly, I am not fond of the one in my town – I’m not really sure why. Not to worry, I drive by plenty others in my area and the one that is brand new has a great lively vibe. The one I tutor at is lively with actual people and is busy-busy so I like that atmosphere, too. But it’s the old buildings that thrill me. I think they must be haunted, in a good way, by book loving ghosts of course. This post was a delight to read.

  • jeanie says:

    I loved this post, because it took me back to a time years ago when I did use the library — and I was about 11 at the time. What happened? I discovered buying books, a passion. They could even be used (I often prefer some of my mysteries used, wondering if the previous reader discovered the answer before I did — or, probably didn’t is more likely!) And yet, if anything can get me to the library, it may be this! For you make it sound so inviting, so date-night, such fun. And much less expensive…!

  • Becca says:

    I have always loved using the library, and even more so in the last couple of years because we’ve got a beautiful, brand new one with it’s own cafe! And I can ride my bike! And because it’s in the community where I grew up, I run across books I took out years and years ago. My son checked out some of the same books my husband and I did when we were growing up here. I like that 🙂

    I’m glad you had such a good experience at your library today!

  • oh says:

    Q – I had to rediscover the wealth that is the library. While I grapple with their “two weeks out” policy, I am willing to comply just be there now. Funny how some things just go missing for awhile, either due to typical paths driven or habits of where-you-go-in-free-time. But armed with my flashy new card, my bookaholism can now take a turn for the cheaper, I mean, better! BREE – You are right – it would be good to finish the ones we already have, but sometimes, we just want to go “see” what else has popped up on the shelves, right? ANNO: aha! You get extra points for not renewing the B&N card! Well done! CARE: You are so right about the library architecture. One of the libraries to which I have access is new and so bright and lean and clean and hard-edged. blech. Wouldn’t that be a fun book to write/photograph – the “old” building libraries and THEIR stories? JEANIE: Used books! An excellent solution. Another one I hadn’t thought about. And Amazon has ’em, too, right? BECCA: You are so LUCKY! A cafe in your library? A family history of going to that library and checking out the same books? oh Becca, you have a lovely story there. And yes, I’m jealous. There should be a cafe and ALL libraries should be within biking distance. You are in a good place.

  • qugrainne says:

    I wrote and made a slide show about my library a while back…. want to visit?

  • oh says:

    Qu – Your library is UNBELIEVABLE!!!! I watched the slide show several times. No wonder you can’t believe I hadn’t visited my library in so long. And I can’t believe the children’s area, the stairways, the cafe, the “warm” they created with all that gorgeous stone. Surely to work there is one of THE jobs in the universe. To have a card there is to need no other card – at all.
    Well, you know what I mean.
    Thank goodness for libraries everywhere, and the fact that they even exist.

  • laylou says:

    I don’t think I’m allowed in my library. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised they don’t have a bounty on my head for my late fees. I have my own fake library of books in my bedroom, but I am curious about yours.
    Let me know if there are any good reads I should add to my list!

  • anno says:

    Our cafe library has a cafe in it, too! My daughter loves it!

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