A good book is hard to find

Good, frugal citizen that I am, I spend a fair amount of time at my local public library – checking out books I don’t have time to read, and dvds I have neither time nor inclination to watch. This slight compulsion inevitably results in tens of dollars of late fees, which I repay. Only to start the cycle all over again. I think my personal record for the amount of time to go without being fined is something like 4 weeks.

I really love the library and even with all my fines, I feel it is entirely worth it. But lately, I’ve had a few strange encounters with my favorite place.

Following my return from ‘Yuhrup’ (that’s Europe pronounced in a snobbish way), I stopped at the bibliotheque to pick up a few books. I’d emptied my wallet prior to ‘going abroad’, so I wouldn’t be burdened with ‘excess weight’ and had plum forgotten to put my library card back.

‘Could I check these out,’ I approached one of the librarians standing behind the ‘help’ desk, motioning towards my small stack of books. ‘I forgot my library card at home,’ I explained why I was not using the self-checkout, and handed her my driver’s license for confirmation of my identity, etcetera.

I’m not sure what it is that librarians do these days, but helping people check books out is not on that list. They are adamant that people use the self check-out – which I do, religiously, except on the rare occasion when I don’t have my library card.

‘Some people,’ the librarian began, in a tone that suggested I was about to get some ‘advice’ on how not to bother her in the future, ‘memorize their library card numbers.’

This little tidbit I did not expect. Really? In this day and age, ‘people’ – other than, presumably, savants or those with the compulsion to do so – have their 14-digit library card number committed to memory? Really?!

‘Or they take a picture of their card with their phone,’ she continued, sensing my skepticism, or perhaps an imminent eye-roll.

Message received: Do not, under any circumstance, approach a librarian – even one who is not helping another ‘customer’ – for the purpose of checking out books. They are far too [busy?] for such trivialities.

A week later (like I said, I’m a regular) I was back at said library. I’d picked out some books for young Percy and the Hen but was stumped on suitable reading material for the Gort who is 10.5 and a good reader, but not necessarily in need of so-called mature content at this stage in his young life.

I picked up a book on display in the children’s section. I do not recall the title, but something about it made me pick it up and flip it over to read the synopsis on the back.

Allow me to paraphrase (wildly, possibly incorrectly): ‘Tom’s been feeling kind of down ever since his sister burned herself doing a chore he was supposed to do and now Tom’s mom resentments have turned into beatings.’

Upon typing that, my curiosity got the better of me – what if I’d read it completely wrong – so I googled: children’s book about sister burned doing a chore he was supposed to do and mom beating him

Ta-da: Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine

Perhaps this is the best book ever written, or maybe it has a fabulous message, but does the Gort really need to digest mental illness and abuse to reap the benefits of good writing or poignant message?

With a vague sense of foreboding, I approached ‘the desk’ (not unlike George Costanza on his second go-around with the soup nazi) waiting for one of the three librarians to assist me. I was summoned to the other side of the desk by a new librarian (yes, I recognize them all at this point).

‘I’m wondering if you could suggest some suitable books for my son who is 10, but a good reader,’ I asked tentatively, hoping for some suggestions of classic, quality children’s books. She clicked on the library’s website and showed me the kid’s page which contained suggestions based on gender and reader’s interest.

I pointed to one of the books I’d be interested in checking out and she walked with me over to the children’s section to locate it. It was not there. ‘He’s a good reader?’ she verified and I nodded my head in affirmation while she pulled a random book off the shelf.

She held it in front of me so I could observe its shape. ‘You should choose a thick book.’


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