When I was a child the library was my sanctuary, my summertime escape. I could avoid the sun, heat, and physical activity that typified most kid's vacations. In the library I didn't have to worry about my body, already plumping up in all the wrong places, and it's many athletic deficiencies. There it was my mind that was active - running through long reading lists, doing laps around the stacks. I was training my brain for the marathon of education that would follow - high school, college, grad school and beyond.
While running the race of higher learning, however, I had little cause to return to the library. My text books were purchased, not borrowed, so I could take notes in the margins and highlight important passages. I would never dream of defacing a library book like this, but such was my training. Reading was no longer a sport - it was my occupation. For the most part, pleasure reading fell to the wayside. For six years I read almost nothing but academic texts and scientific literature. Even when I started work and had a little more free time, I didn't go back to the library to browse and relax. Until this week.
I had requested a novel for a book club, and it came in on Monday. The book club meeting is today, and I had conflict anyway, but I figured I couldn't just let the book sit there. I went to pick it up from Marion the Librarian at the branch where my Toastmasters group meets. Please do not imagine her to be the precocious heroine from The Music Man ... think instead a short woman with gray hair, wire-rimmed glasses and hard features. I can tell that Marion disapproves of the noisy speechifying that goes on in the library's meeting room. She scowls impressively over her glasses every time I walk by the circulation desk - daunting, to say the least. Still, on this day it galvanized me to action - I would not flee before Marion's dour expression. I would stay, and leave when I was ready to go.
I wandered in and out of the stacks, admiring the classification by genre that mirrored my bookcase at home. I went from Mystery to Westerns to SciFi to Adult Fiction. Young Adult called to me from out of the past, but I resisted. I amused myself by confirming that I'd read all the Agatha Christie available and considered checking out Ralph Compton's last installment in the Danny Duggin series, Death Along the Cimarron. Searching for Neil Gaiman revealed three slim Sandman graphic novels, but no Neverwhere or Anansi Boys. I finally settled on a book suggested by my book club last month, that I had previewed on Amazon but never got around to buying. When I was finished, I used the self-checkout station (the wonders of our age!), snubbing Marion entirely. Take that, I thought childishly. I win at Library.