It won’t come as a shock to anyone who knows me that I am a fan of public libraries, or at least, it shouldn’t. I nurtured a morbid fascination with maritime disasters at the Princeton public library when I went to grade school in the town, and although the East Windsor, NJ library paled in comparison by almost any measure, but most notably with regard to architecture, selection of books, and proximity to PJ’s Pancake House (I’ll always love you, PJ’s!), I still spent a lot of time there after school. I’d bike over and fret once I’d selected a couple of tomes that I’d left my bag at home, so it was a careful pedal back home, balancing the books on the handlebars. Any library beat my primary school’s library, really, which was limited to a tiny room on the top floor of the school, the books crammed in so tightly that one considered doing hand exercises in one’s spare time so as to improve one’s finger strength for wrestling them off the shelves.
I went to the Arlington, VA library a few times but the habit didn’t stick, mostly because of the new ease of Amazon ordering, and because there was at least one ravenous reader who was also a nose-picker, and damn if I don’t want to deal with someone else’s snot in the midst of my mystery novel, crossover history book, or autobiography. I strayed away from the library ethic that my mother had modeled for me, nearly the whole time I lived in the DC area.
Coming out to Walla Walla, I had reasons to return to free reading; I’d given up an income that would allow me to buy my way through my cerebral interests, I wanted to see what a semi-rural library would be like, and I was 3,000 miles away from the prolific picker. While the hours at the main branch of the library are a little tight, they do have a decent selection, and they have a little bit of depth in most subject areas throughout the Dewey Decimal System. There aren’t 5 copies of every new bestseller, but that’s okay, I can always turn to my ebook or order those online. And their 3-week limit means that titles come back into the system all the time. So far I haven’t needed to wait very long to get a book of interest.
Today I snatched up a few volumes on ancient Egypt for a new project I intend to tackle this spring and summer (shh, it’s a secret), and since it was staring me in the face, Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom. I pulled out my bright purple library card from my wallet and saw a new notice tacked to the counter:
We are working with the Walla Walla Police Department to review our videotape and identify who has been stealing our DVDs. Nearly 23 percent of our new DVDs have been stolen this year, and we do not have the budget to to replace them. If you know anything about these thefts, please notify us or the police.
Wow. It’s a rough economy, I know, but really? Is someone reselling them on eBay or thereabouts? Just hoarding movies and cooking how-to shows? What?
I suppose I’d rather have to deal with nose detritus than see community resources sucked away like this.