Library Woes

In the spirit of decluttering and living with less, I’ve been purging all my belongings that don’t have a purpose or mean something to me. It’s felt great to get rid of things that I’ve just been lugging around for years. The hardest part has, naturally, been my books.

For a long time, I was acquiring books at a ridiculous rate. I mean, I wasn’t buying hundreds of books, but I was certainly buying books just because they caught my eye. And then never reading them. Which, for me, is ridiculous. I just can’t afford the money or the space it takes to continue down that path. And it’s not in line with my goals of a more simple, peaceful life.

Anyway, I went through my nearly 500 books and divided them up into groups: those that HAD to stay, those that should really go, and those I was unsure about. I took a bunch of the rejects to a used bookstore, others to donate to the library, and the remainder are slowly trickling out via BookMooch.com. For those that I knew I wanted to keep, I made the decision to find nicer editions that I could be proud of- they didn’t have to be expensive, but they should reflect how much the book meant to me.

The other part of the plan involves utilizing my public library more frequently. Being an insatiable reader, one could assume that I’m a huge fan of the library. They would be wrong. I have an extremely antagonistic relationship with it. For most of my life I have been an acquirer of books- I wanted to possess them rather than read them and give them back. When thought about rationally, this makes no sense because there is nothing to stop me purchasing a book if I really love it AFTER having borrowed it from the library. But, when it comes to books, I have rarely been rational.

One of the main things I hate about our local library is the selection. They have all the mysteries and blockbusters to satisfy that type of reader but, more often than not, they wouldn’t have what I was looking for. And they couldn’t get it for me either. The library for my county is in a system with several other local county libraries and they, ostensibly, share books. The problem for me is that the library in my county is the nicest, most well-stocked in the system, so… if they don’t have it, it’s almost a sure bet that I can’t get it. And even if I could, it would cost me money: 50 cents to request the book and about $2.50 to mail the damn thing back to the library it came from. Idiotic.

When I lived in Austin, TX, everything changed. I was much more strapped for cash at the time because I was only working part-time in order to spend the majority of my time interning with a humanitarian group. Given the MUCH higher cost of living than what I had been accustomed to- I went from 500 sqft for $400 a month to 300 sqft for $900 a month- and the fact that Austin was probably not a long-term placement, I was trying not to buy books. So, I turned to the library. The spectacular Austin Public Library System.

The entire library system is integrated. Basically you find the branch most convenient for you and they will deliver any book from any library to that branch for you to pick up. And you can reserve many, many books at one time- I think 20 was the most I ever had on reserve. Once the books become available, from any library, they email you and you pick it up at your local branch. For free. As in, freeeeeeee.

So, I became a library fan just in time to move back here. Where the library does not have any book I can think of. Or share nicely. Boo. But, I’ve got to make an effort to utilize the library more if I’m going to stop buying unnecessary books. The Magician King by Lev Grossman, the sequel to a book I loved and hated in almost equal measure, is coming out in a few weeks. I refuse to buy it before reading it because the last one went so bad in the end. This was the perfect chance to give the library another shot. So, I hopped on the website to see when it would be available.

And that’s when I saw it. A button marked HOLD. It had never been there before. I was SO EXCITED. Things were finally looking up for me and the library. So I quickly placed a hold on the book and tried to contain my excitement. Then I saw I had an overdue fee from a year ago and that my card needed renewing within the week. Ugh. So I ran by the library this afternoon and paid my $1.80 and renewed my card.

I then asked how they would let me know the book I’d put on hold had come in. And the librarian looked at me like I was speaking gibberish. I told her I’d reserved a book online and just didn’t know how they would contact me. She said that shouldn’t be possible. We both just blinked at each other. So she calls over another librarian and they confer about it. Yes, there’s my reservation in the system. No, no one told them this feature was working. It wasn’t supposed to work. Apparently ever. We all just scratched our heads, me rather irritably, and they took my information down on a piece of paper and told me they’d call me.

And then they reminded me to bring 50 cents with me when I picked up the book. Because that’s how much it costs for them to hold a book.

Right. I had started to think we were in the modern age. But apparently not. Oh well… the library woes continue.