To your left you will note a brand spanking new, ink barely dried diploma with my name on it. And it is NOT photoshopped. One MA down, one MLIS to go. Not too shabby from someone who did not finish high school. (I obtained my GED one year after I was to have completed high school. Statistically, I do not exist, imagine that.
I haven’t been to the library in ages.
Years, even. It had been so long that the information that the downtown main branch had on me was from several moves ago (i.e. years); I had $7 dollars in outstanding fines and I had to replace my library card as my old one was outmoded. Now I have a swanky, trendy library card and a key fob card. I’m not quite sure what is wrong with me, but I’m vaguely obsessed with key fob cards, especially when they are lime green!
When I was a kid, I used to haunt the library every day during summer vacations. In Port Huron, the main branch was located near the St. Clair River so each day would begin as thus: Get up, get dressed and have breakfast. Pedal my bike the few miles to the library with a knapsack on my back filled with water, snack foods, small blanket, pen and notebooks. Get to the library, drop off read books, check out new books; head towards the river where I had found some shady coves from prior visits, lock up bike, climb down path to said secluded spots, lay down my blanket and read all day long. I would do this, weather permitting, nearly every day. I never took anyone with me, and I don’t think anyone really knew where the hell I was or what the hell I was doing with my time every day.
This was in the early ’80s Midwest when one could leave their doors unlocked, cicadas seemed to sing louder and stronger, my favorite ice cream from the ice cream man was the red/white/blue rocket ices and I biked around town on my baby blue, boys 10-speed Schwinn. When we moved to Grand Rapids in 1985, the ability to get from one place to another was not as easily accessible as it was in Port Huron, despite the abundance of public transportation that Grand Rapids has to offer. Not knowing the street layouts, locations or places, for the better part of my early years in G.R., I was more or less library-less. In high school, I did take advantage of the school library, apparently so much so that my high school librarian remembered me after 15 years and did not seem that surprised that I was working at a bookstore OR that I was a MLIS candidate.
When we would later move several years later after our first foray to the area, I was within walking distance of our neighborhood library; a library so tiny that it would fit into the first floor of our then house. (Nearly a decade later, they razed the old library building, knocked out the gas station next door and did a complete rebuild.) And the one year that I lived in Toronto, working on my final year of high school, I championed the school library so much that the librarians knew me by name and began to recommend other reads or asked me questions about the authors I was inhaling. (This was the year that I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald, began to detest D.H. Lawrence and read the entire Stephen King back catalog up to whatever was the most current tome at the time.)
My library-fu was strong, but as I got older and became more interested in boys, booze and clubbing, my interest in hanging out at the library wanned. It was not that I stopped reading, no, I was still inhaling books by the pound like I did as a kid but this time around, I bought them. Why be the 23rd person on hold for a book when I could go to the bookstore and buy it? After years of using the library system for everything from movies, music and books, the concept of purchasing said things just seemed weird and downright foreign. But the lure of having a job, disposable income (when you’re a teenager, every dollar you make is disposable income) and the ability to CRACK THE SPINES OF MY BOOKS, was even greater. No worries about late fees or not getting the book back in the condition I received it and I could highlight and write in books to my little hearts content. This to me was a stupendous revelation!
And as the years went on, I spent that disposable income on books (and shoes, clothes and make-up, but mainly books) and at the start of the internets thingy, when it came to looking for information, why one could it with a few clicks of a button! What’s this call system thing? Dewey decimal who? And the first thing I went looking for on the internets in 1995, something that I don’t think one could FIND in a library, were the words to R.E.M.’s It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), using Veronica and Archie. I pretty much ditched hanging out in the libraries after that. Why wait for cranky Miss Kerfuffles’ to query my inquirer when whatever I needed and wanted as available online and could be accessed while sitting in my jammies!
And even though I brag that I have library cards from two different countries, three states, numerous cities and a sprinkling of college systems, it just isn’t the same. Or at least it didn’t use to be. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate career, whatever I wanted informationally has been available online, mostly via online editions of journals and periodicals. And if I couldn’t get it online, then I used ILL (inter-library loan), but that too was done online. I didn’t have to step foot in a physical building other than to pick up the books that I had requested, online.
Wandering around the downtown library the other day, I realized just how much I missed being there. I love the periodical room, with the long oak tables, comfy chairs and gazillion magazines and newspapers. The set up of the place, the smell of the printed paper after its been fondled a few dozens times. Just the essence of the library itself kept pulling me in. I wandered up and down the aisles, looking for reads and grabbing audio books for my trips to Detroit. I suppose it was then, that without a doubt, that I knew getting my MLIS degree was the utmost right thing to do.
I belong here, the library is my home and like a home, it will always be waiting for me no matter how long I’ve been gone or where. And no matter what happens, no matter where I may end up, I will always have my beloved books.
Now Listening: The Verve – Love is noise
Now Reading: Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson