Confession Time

I have a deep dark secret. Promise you won’t judge me.

Okay, don’t judge me too harshly, at least.  ‘Cause to be honest, I kind of judge myself.

Ready?

*deep breath* I’m not a member of my public library.

I know. I know.

I love the library. I do. It’s just not something I’ve gotten around to doing. I’ve only lived in my current city for…um…three years.

I know.

I’m a writer, who is not a member of the library. In my defense, I joined the library in my previous city, and I was a member of my hometown library for as long as I can remember growing up. I just never did it when I moved. Actually, this past Monday was the first time I’ve even been to the library here.

It’s really pretty, and fairly good sized. Although it seems like there are more seating and study areas and local exhibits than books. I tried to join Monday while I was there, but I didn’t have my license on me. Hubby did. My engineer husband is now a member of the library and I, the writer, am not.

But, here’s really why:

I’ve mentioned this before, but my family was pretty poor when I was growing up. I mean, my parents always made sure we had enough food, and they sacrificed a lot and worked really hard to make sure I got a good education and had a roof over my head. We didn’t have money for many extras, though. One of my favorite luxuries was books. It was a luxury, though.

Most of my books came from the library. I could spend hours there. Narrowing down my choices to the two or three books I was allowed to get was the most agonizing decision ever. I haven’t stepped foot in my hometown library in at least ten years, but I remember everything about it. At least, how it was when I was a kid. The big rug in the kid’s section, the carpeted cubbies along the back wall where you could crawl inside and curl up to read, the computer area (I could never figure out why people played computer game when there were so many books!). I remember how mature I felt when I started getting books from the adult section, and how boring the Heritage Room was. I have a newspaper clipping with a picture of me and my parents unpacking boxes for a book fair the library was having. I think I was in the fifth grade. The library was one of my most favorite places in the world.

But the books were temporary. Each one had to go back when I finished. It always made me so sad to return a book. Even if that sadness was quickly replaced by the joy of a new treasure.

Owning a book, though. Actually owning one. Wow. There was nothing like it. (Okay, honestly, the giant refrigerator box my parents let me keep was pretty awesome, but it eventually got kind of busted and had to go in the trash. Bonus, I could read in there). But not even their permanence was guaranteed. We had this great used book shop in town (actually, it was the only book store I remember going to until I got older, and even then the closest big store was a Books-a-Million forty minutes away). It was basically a maze of old shelves and tattered covers and amazing musty book smells, and was right up there with the library in terms of great locations of my childhood. Maybe even a little higher. Because I could keep these books. Well, some of them.

These books cost money. Granted, they were less expensive than buying one brand new (which was virtually unheard of and usually only happened at that fantastic wonder of wonders called the Book Fair at school. Holy crap I loved the Book Fair SO. Much.), but still, like I said, a luxury. So, like the library, most of the time if I wanted new book, I had to trade in an old one. I only kept my absolute favorites. The ones I would re-read over and over. (We also had a small collection of the books my mother taught to her classes, but those were mostly boring to a kid. Like ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN. Bleh).

What does this have to do with not joining the library? I’m glad you asked!

Itsy bitsy me promised myself that one day, one amazing day, I wouldn’t have to give books back. I would keep them, forever. In my own library. And it would be glorious! Alphabetically arranged by category, then by author last name, with my own card catalog system, and rich wood and deep, comfy chairs, and great lighting. Oh, and cats, I could always have cats in my library. Sitting in my lap in said comfy chairs.

As I grew up, each book I kept became a trophy. On Christmas and Easter and my birthday and Book Fair days I would get brand new books to go with the myriad of used ones. It broke my heart to leave them all behind when I moved away for college. Then it drove me crazy when I went home and found them in my brother’s room! (Dirty little thief). I worked in the law library in law school, partially because it was an easy way to get paid and study, but also because I was surrounded by my people–books. Then I got married, and some of my books moved in with me and my husband.

Then. Then. We moved to our current town and we bought a house. A house in which I made certain had a spare room for a library. I kid you not, on my list of house requirements was “library room.” And allllll my books finally came home with me. Even the ones my brother had thugged. The ones that fit on shelves were organized alphabetically by category, then by author last name, and I set up a card catalog to track who I loaned books to and when. Hubby is supposed to build me more shelves because I’m out of room, and I’m still working on the deep wood and thick chairs, but it will get there one day.

All these years, I have been carefully accumulating. Buying books when I had extra money. Some girls buy shoes and purses. I buy books. And I can keep them. And it is glorious. The dream of little girl me has come true. I have a library, and my books never have to leave.

Which means, I’ve had no reason to use the public library here. I worked hard in college and law school and can finally afford to buy the books I want to read and support the authors I want to support. However, I realize how important the library was for me as a kid, and how important it is for other kids who can’t afford books, and it’s high time I support my local library.

So, dear reader, I am going back to the library. This time I’m taking my license, and I’m going to get a card, and I’m going to wash this dark shadow off. Maybe, when the budget allows, Hubby and I will become Friends of the Library and support it by more than just our patronage.

Do you use the library? If not, what do you do with books after you read them? Pass them along? Or are you like me, slowly trying to accumulate a library to rival Belle’s?

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Locking in, Uniforming, Book Burning, Blood Letting

Those words from R.E.M’s “It’s the End of the World” capture how I’m feeling today after reading a troubling post.  There’s something going on that most of the public have no idea occurs.  Something sad and depressing.  Book burning.  No, not a bunch of uber-conservatives trying to rid library shelves of material they claim is “pornographic”, “lascivious”, or “disturbing” ala the original Footloose (I have no idea if its in the remake- I can’t bring myself to watch it).  No, no.  This is much worse.  This is the libraries clearing shelves to make room.

I’m not talking about chucking a few into a bonfire out front either.  I’m talking hundreds of thousands of books being destroyed in secret.  And not just overprints of Twilight.  First editions of Hamlet and Moby Dick.  Copies of Shakespeare from the 1700s with calligraphied messages from the original owner on the cover.  These aren’t just books, they’re books!  The creme de la creme for any book lover.

I know the new craze is e-books, and I’m not in total opposition.  Okay, I’ll admit, I was initially, but I can see the good in e-books.  Lower costs of publication, which means a greater chance for an aspiring author to get their work out there; appeal to the younger “technological” generation, kids who might not have picked up a paperback might be more likely to grab a Kindle or Nook.  I bought my husband a Kindle and have read a few books on it myself.  I can’t, however, make a full switch.  There is nothing quite like holding a book.  Feeling it’s heft.  Turning a page.  Especially an old book.

The picture at the top of this page is from my own shelf.  Of all books, old ones are my favorite.  The musty smell.  The thick, brittle, tan or brown pages.  The coarse leather and cloth bindings.  Picking one up makes me wonder who else has handled it, read it, owned it, loved it.  Centuries of hungry eyes gobbling up the words and turning those same pages.  It’s not just a book, it’s history.  It’s life.

I scour thrift shops and old bookstores searching for these ancient tomes.  Nor do I always care what they are.  A first edition of a book of poetry, or a collection of stories in an old schoolbook.  I love them all.  I’ve always wanted the library from Beauty and the Beast.  You know the one.  The one that finally gets Belle to notice Beast in a new light.  Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with the giant rolling ladder.  Ahhhh.

And now I find out that libraries are burning these treasures.  They can’t give them away or sell them or toss them in the trash because it takes too much time and effort to strip the markings and sensors from each one first.  Library workers can’t save any they come across because it would encourage sifting through them.  You can read all of the reasons at Cracked: 6 Reasons We’re in Another “Book Burning” Period in History.  It makes me too sad to go through it all again.

Of course, I keep thinking there has to be a way to save these books.  Volunteers at the library to strip them?  Some benevolent millionaire willing to buy them all?  Or am I forced to accept the reality that innumerable pieces of literature will meet their end in a fiery furnace?