Borrowed Books

Sometimes you need to stop and look around and notice the things for which you are grateful.

These can (and probably should be) small, the things you feel grateful for RIGHTNOT, not the things you feel like you ought to say you feel grateful for.

So here goes.

The Library Is Open Again


I don’t actually use my local library as much as I ought to, and certainly not as much as when I was a kid. I buy a lot of books and I absolutely — fiercely — LURVE being able to download books to my Kindle on a whim.


I don’t actually want to buy or own every book I want to read.

At the moment I’m researching some info for a writing project. I don’t actually want to go out and buy and then store-or-otherwise-get-rid-of a ton of books on obscure electioneering arcana. These are books I might flip through, consult the index of, skim and then cast aside. I want to pore over lots and lots of books and then put them all back on the shelf, allowing their diced-up contents to simmer into brain soup.

I want to worm my way into the .973 section, browse the titles, pull books off shelves, consult the flaps, the table of contents, the index, the bibliography, flip through a few pages, frown, put them back on the shelf and select another. I want to take a book that piques my interest and flop down with it, crosslegged, right there in the .973s and leaf through it, then put it on the stack of ‘take to a table’ books that I’m collecting.

I want to go to a table and build a fortress of borrowed books between me and the rest of the patrons. I want to leaf through them, smile, grin, nod, raise my eyebrows, make notes (page number and quotation marks in place, so that I never risk running into plagiarism problems). I want to reluctantly push a book aside when I realise I’ve started reading outside my area of stated interest, and pick up the next one. I want to move a couple of the books over to the ‘I should probably check this out’ pile.

Then I want to take them home and read them with all the urgency I learned in my weekly trips to the library as a kid: as if the words were going to evaporate if I didn’t read them as quickly as possible. I want to commit to reading these-books-right-now-and-nothing-else-until-they’re-finished because these books are temporary friends. They’re going away again, very soon. I want to treasure them and love them like a summer romance: all-or-nothing, hopelessly devoted.

I could, however, do without the part where I turn the page and find the flattened remnants of some other patron’s lunch. (Pass the hand sanitizer!)

For this, eboks are not my friend. Bough-books are not my friend. Libraries are my friend. (And no, I don’t think you should treat the bookstore as if it was a library. Bookstores sell books. They don’t lend them. If I’m buying a book I want it to be virgin, unspoiled by your coffee-scented fingers, unsullied by other eyes.

My local library has been undergoing some renovations and has been — gasp! — closed. (I might not go every week but I do like knowing it’s there — and open — when I need it). I had been worried that they might do something dire to the lovely, high-roofed, wood-clad original Carnegie reading room part, but they have merely cleaned it up. Happy sigh. The flimsy, prefab modern part up the back has had a bit of a facelift (clean carpets to flop down upon, hooray!) and they’ve totally reworked the basement children’s library. So while the adult section of the library doesn’t look terribly different, the staff look happier and all excited, so I’m assuming some too-subtle-for-me changes have improved their lives. That’s good. If there’s one thing the world doesn’t need, it’s more grumpy librarians. (My one gripe, though, is that they have the person calling people about overdue books and appointments to file passport applications, making those calls from the center of the reading room. What ever happened to ‘silence in the library’? I miss that.

But I’m wandering. Basically: I’m happy that I have access to a decent if small library, walking distance from my house. And I’m grateful I have headphones. And that Crazy John, who more or less lives there, isn’t all that crazy most days.

Libraries. Awesome places.

2 thoughts on “Borrowed Books

  1. The Da

    I’m mostly familiar with the children’s section of your local library from taking the boys there and I think it’s great. I don’t remember going to the children’s section in Troon, with or without you.

    I do remember going to the Elderpark library in Govan when I was a kid and being enthralled by various books; The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sherlock Holmes (still works), The Hardy Boys ( couldn’t believe American kids were allowed to drive at 14). Glasgow, The Second City of Empire (highly recommended for a historian if you can still find a copy) and a breathtaking quarto copy of Audubon’s Birds of America ( must go in and ask if they still have it).

    It wasn’t a Carnegie Library, having been endowed by the Elder family, shipbuilders and philanthropists who, besides the library gave Govan a hospital, a park and, basically, an identity. For me, the library was the best bit.

  2. jwordsmith Post author

    I think by the time we reached Troon I was old enough to be let loose in their generous kids’ library, but I do remember being there mostly with Mummy and graduating to the talking books in time…

    I also remember you taking me often to a fancy library, probably in Crowthorne, so Mummy could do her homework on Saturdays!

    Imprinted the love of libraries at an early age!

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