Book Battles

I have a horrible, horrible sickness (aside from the cold I’m currently recovering from). You would think someone who can keep up with their car payments, electric bills, and rent payments (shit… I forgot to pay rent yesterday) would be able to keep up with something as basic as returning their library books on time, but it’s actually very difficult. Impossible, actually.

I can see you don’t believe me. Let me explain.

So, I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but libraries are a beautiful invention. They contain a myriad of books, and any random person (and I mean any random person) can waltz in and help themselves to their contents. Tall people, short people, male people, female people, old people, young people, angry people, sad people, smelly people, lizard people, poor people, rich people, sick people (@ me), illiterate people, strong people, weak people… So essentially anyone who has had an address at some point can utilize the library’s services. What a novel idea libraries are.

Libraries are literally buildings dedicated to housing books. And they let just anyone come on in and borrow all the books they want! They truly enable my shameless addiction.

Anyway, so it’s a slippery slope. Libraries are a gateway drug to book-hoarding and hours of effortless suspension of reality. So I visit a library, maybe looking for a quick read for a road trip or something to occupy my weekend, and then I get lost in the stacks, picking out shiny books and investigating dusty books and ohhhh that book spine looks really interesting– wait, I’ve been meaning to read this one, and cool!; my friend was telling me about this one.

By the end of my trip I’ve got a stack of books I can hardly carry and morale is high. I’m gonna read all of the things. Forget every other responsibility I have in life, I’m gonna consume every word of these pages.

The circulation desk lady gives me a dubious look; eh, she doesn’t think I can do it. She’s seen her fair share of book-hungry patrons who buckle under the reading load, but I’ll prove her wrong. (As if she has any way of knowing anyone reads anything they check out. But still– it’s the principle! I’m an English major; I’ve got this!)

Anyway then I get into my semi-truck and bring all my books back home. I dump them in my spare room (known to most as “the kitchen”– no matter, I don’t use it anyway) and re-evaluate them all, check out my loot. This one looks just amazing… But then another one calls my name. This one looks thrilling… But this one looks moving… But this one has such an aesthetically pleasing cover… This one has a nice glossy cover… But this one is worn and fits in my hands so perfectly. I can’t choose which one to read first.

So then I spend the rest of the day picking out which book I want to read. I start in on it, excited to see where it takes me, but I’m still distracted by the other books’ potential. I just can’t focus on what I’m reading because I’m so excited. “Call me Ishmael,” the book tells me, but my mind keeps scampering off to how great all these books are gonna be, so I reply, “Actually, I’ll call you later.”

I put the book aside. I need time to calm down. I’ll get back to it tomorrow.

Tomorrow ends up being hectic and stressful and Time Warner Cable fails me again and I have all this stuff to deal with and I’m still sick from my cold so I go to bed at 9 PM. A variation of this trend continues for a few days, until I realize I’ve neglected my chosen book.

“I’m gonna read this bad boy today,” I tell myself. I even bring it with me everywhere I go– ease of access, I keep it in my purse. But when I have a minute of downtime, I’d rather nod off in my chair than try to shake my brain awake.

So then this book ends up traveling with me for weeks like a purse-dog and I keep getting distracted from it. I get an email from the library: “You have materials coming due.” The email says they’re due in four days; in four days, I will log on and renew all my books so I can have them the longest possible time.

Except four days comes and goes and I forget entirely. And it’s not until several days later that it dawns on me I have books due. I log in, renew my colony of books, and go back to ignoring them. I want to read them! I’ll get to them eventually. I’m totally determined. I have to prove myself to that circulation clerk. I just have homework to do… And cool friends to hang out with… And my cat wants to play….

I should mention that I used to work at a library, for two years. I shelved books, which is probably the best job I will ever have, for many reasons. One of those reasons is that I didn’t pay fines, which had a very adverse effect on me; you would think working at a library would make me more conscious of returning materials on time, but it actually ruined me. It enabled me. (I’m telling you, everything I do wrong is everyone else’s fault for enabling me.) Since I was at the library nearly every day, I’d always find some new intriguing book to take home with me like some sort of lost puppy (or maybe a more accurate analogy would be “like a neighbor’s cat that wandered into my yard so I deemed it mine and took it in”– not an uncommon scenario for my family, by the way).

So then I’d have columns of books in the corner of my room, but since I was so busy working at the library, I didn’t have too much time to actually read them. Maybe it was more fun for me to wonder at their brilliant contents and be engrossed by the unknown mysteries within than to actually open up the damn things and find out for myself the real facts of it. Either way, I rarely read them all. And when I’d get to work, I’d realize, “Oh hey these books are due today,” and I’d renew them, or, if my two permitted renewals had been spent, I’d do a little manipulating… Usually, if the book has no holds, patrons can check in and check back out a book in order to get more time with it. But I didn’t want to bring all those books back in with me to do that. So, I’d go to my account and copy and paste the barcode (check in) and then re-paste the barcode (check out). And that’s how I had the Fountainhead for a year from the library with no fines. It absolutely ruined me.

I never truly learned my lesson, so now that I visit libraries I’m not employed at, I struggle with keeping up with my due dates. I just forget. I don’t know, I view the books as part of me. I guess I should also mention that I presently work directly across from a library, which gives me even less of an excuse for being so horrible at returning library books. But actually it makes it harder! I’ll think, “Okay, I’ll just return this book after work, no big deal” but then I forget to bring the book with me, so every morning when I pull into work, I think, “Dammit! I forgot the book!” like it’s a part of my daily routine. Clockwork, people. I even set the book on top of my purse so I’ll remember when I leave in the morning to bring it with me. But every morning, I move the book out of my way and leave without it. I move the book out of the way. The book I need to bring with me. I live a pathetic life.

Anyway, so then my fines rack up because I’m forgetful and greedy and romantic about library books.

I’ll have you know, the other day, I went to renew my books online like a good patron and it wouldn’t let me. They said my fines were too outstanding to allow me to renew my books. I was book-blocked! I was trying to do my civic duty as a patron and I was book-blocked! That’s what I get for trying!

So, I guess it’s time to find a new library until I can afford to pay my fine. Guess I’ll just have to add “library bill” to the list of monthly expenses I need to account for (and consequently forget about).

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