Friday, February 1, 2013

Why The Public Library is Damaging to My Health

Any one who sees my ‘Libraries’ page on the photo-sharing site Pinterest knows my deep fascination with anything to do with books. I love to read books, I love the smell of books, the look of books, the feel of books, the presence of books. It should tell you something that one of my ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ was to obtain a minimum of three antique books aside from any others.

There are several places offered to people like me for alleviating our addiction: bookstores and libraries. I must say I prefer used book stores to those which are filled with the newest, biggest thing. I graduated some years ago from the common term ‘bookworm’ into a full-blown bibliophile. (The difference being that bookworms are those who merely read a lot and bibliophiles are those who, as I spelled out above, love anything remotely to do with books.)

Book stores are better for me because most often I do not have the resources on hand to just buy any book I want and therefore usually refrain from buying any at all. Public libraries, on the other hand…well. That’s another story.

I have two library cards—more, actually, if you count all the old and misplaced ones lying abandoned in the deepest corners of my bedroom—and utilize both liberally. Unfortunately, I am what one might call a slow reader, which is a horrible curse upon any bibliophile anywhere. (Aside: I believe my speed is mostly affected by the way in which I tend to read—as if telling the story aloud, pronouncing every strange name, giving each character a different voice in my head, and etc. This is nothing I am conscious of when actually reading, but I notice it when sitting beside someone who is easily breezing through a book while I flip a few mere pages.)

My problem at libraries tends to be the impulse. I see a book that looks good and start carrying it around, find another one, find a newly released sequel to one I’ve already read, and before I know it my arms are full. It is not unusual for me to check out a stack of a dozen novels in one visit to the library. (And that is aside from the three or four CDs I also borrow on occasion.) It is unusual, though, for me to read through them all. This sometimes results in rejected books—not on any merit or fault of their own, but simply because I run out of time to read them and don’t feel like checking them out again. For example, I just returned three books I never even so much as opened. And for those of you who are unfamiliar with a bibliophile’s book-related obsessive tendencies, this was a nigh unforgivable crime.

Nonfiction is not so bad because must of these I can browse at ease and don’t feel bad not reading each and every word. (I’m also one of those who will, at times, skip a paragraph of narrative and then feel guilty about it and go back, which probably also effects the time I spend reading.) But storybooks are notorious for keeping me up late at night, holding my thoughts for a few days afterward, and inciting almost stalker-like searching for other material by the same author or of the same type.

Apart from the reading and neglect of reading itself, I also tend to pay roughly five dollars in late fines annually. My books are rarely late for long, a day or two at worst, but twenty cents here and there adds up.

What’s worse, I recently began volunteering at my local library. I love it, absolutely love it. But it’s not good for me. Especially since I was assigned to shelving my favorite section: the juvenile books. Everything from Mo Willems’s Gerald and Piggy books, to beautifully illustrated fairytales, to those novels I’ve never before noticed catch my eye as I organize the shelves. This is good for someone like me who tends not to scan thoroughly when seeking books. I glance down the row of spines and if one grabs my attention, I pull it out for study. Just this past week I found three books I never before noticed (reviews of said-books is pending). Found is a relative term, too. I actually ‘found’ far more than that, but I had to move on from there and I forgot several by the time I was clocked-out and could go back to being a patron.

I love libraries and everything they stand for and I cringe more often in reading history when the invading army burns the library than I do any other time. But they aren’t particularly good for me. When caught up in a wonderful book, I tend to forget the most simple and practical things of everyday life. Such as taking the dog out, eating, moving, and the most common of all: sleep. Warning. This sort of total immersion into the literary wonders of the world can result in unhappy pets, rumbling stomachs, numbed limbs, comas, and concerned family members. (And, evidently, an excess of parenthetical statements.)

I comfort myself with the fact that I am not alone. Bibliophile is an actual term and describes a great number of people. (I should know, most of them are my close friends.)

Fortunately for me, the librarians are kind enough most of the time not to lock me in when closing hour rolls around. Most of the time.


  1. LOL - I think I could have written this exact same post and it would still be just as true for me as it is for you. I don't volunteer at my library (though your mention of it has given me this intriguing idea...) but other than that it's totally me. Maybe that's why we get along so well. ; )

  2. The book-addicts must stick together, I suppose. :)