Sunday, April 27, 2014

A trip to the library

I am once of those who believes in libraries.  It saves money and I am exposed to a huge variety of books for which I don't have to pay.  Even better -- I can snap up CDs, take them home and listen to them, then decide if I want to copy them.  There are art exhibits at the main library.  As long as you have a library card and have made a reservation, you can use the library's computers for things as mundane as passing the time with a game.

On the weekend, I listen to NPR in my car as I drive around on errands.  There are shows that feature musicians and music, there are interviews with authors and book reviews.  If I hear about a book or CD that seems interesting to me, I go to the library website and reserve it.  When it comes in, they give me nine days to come and get it.

Here's my rule for reading a new book:  If I get to the page that is my age and I am still not into the book, I ditch it.  I got this from an interview I read with Nancy Pearl, the Seattle librarian who has her very own action figure.  Nancy said if you get to that page and still don't like it, put it down because there are plenty of other books to be read.  (And, might I add, this is your life, not school, and unless you're in a book club that requires you to read it, do not go on.  If you're in a book club that requires it and you often don't like its selections, then why are you in that book club?)  I have gotten to the page that's my age in books and don't still don't feel it and then I finish the book and I'm not pissed but I vow to never read anything by that author again. 

You know what I mean.  Everyone is nuts about a book, but you find the writing to be juvenile.  Or someone you know loves a book but it's 700 pages long and no freaking way are you going to read it because you read on your commute and don't want to lug 700 pages around to and from work.  Maybe you'll be a shut in one day and you can read the big thing then.  That juvenile writing?  That's a matter of taste.  There are books I've loved that everyone I know has loved but other friends can't get into them or fail to see the value.  That's their taste and that's how it is.  If it feels like a chore, then put it down.

The library gives us the opportunity to experience this in, pardon the pun, volumes.  I love pop psychology from the library.  I skim through them with great enthusiasm and never learn a damn thing but I didn't buy them so I can continue my love affair.  I like getting travel books to determine where I might go if I am ever flush -- Tokyo, Shanghai, New Zealand, Edinburgh, and, always, Paris.  If I find an exercise book I like and it's useful, I can buy it.  If I get a CD that's terrible, I don't have to copy it.  I get in line for an allegedly exciting new book and when it comes and I think it's ghastly, back it goes, no harm, no foul, and I try again.

I had a minor car repair this weekend, so minor that my mechanic didn't even charge me for it (but I gave him something for his time and trouble).  He said to have a seat and wait and he'd fix it right then.  "Please can you keep it?  I need to go downtown to the library and there's no parking down there.  I'll be back in hour."  Fortunately, he agreed and I dashed off to public transportation.

The main library was a hub of activity.  "Are you here for Poetry Fest?" I was asked.  Poetry Fest!  I'd forgotten.  There were tables that would be manned by Poetry publishers.  Kids who'd won citywide Haiku contests would get to read their works accompanied by Japanese instruments.  It sounded kind of swell. "No," I said, "I just came to pick up a book."  (I am not a poet -- although I have tried -- and what I know about poetry would probably fill a thimble and I had promised I'd come back for my car in an hour.)  But this is what the library can offer -- diversity, a chance to stretch your brain, the opportunity to experience something you think you don't like in a new way.

I have friends who don't like libraries because many other (possibly unsavory) people have had their hands on the books.  I have other friends who don't wish to be inconvenienced by going out of their way to the library.  That is their choice.  They feel flush enough to spend money on books -- and I say good for them -- or else they don't read at all.  Others like to read but don't like printed material any longer, preferring to read on their Kindles and iPads.  Good for them, too.

I often think about the quote I saw in my former neighborhood library:  "A library will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through a time of no libraries."  Sign up for a free card and go check something out.  Maybe you'll find seven other things you'd love to try.

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