I decided not to make any New Year’s Resolutions. The word resolution itself implies commitment and willpower. The later of which I have none. However, 2012 is going to be a year of changes for our family, so I decided to give myself what I am calling General Guidelines.
Hannah will be starting college this fall, so one of the guidelines is to find creative ways to save money. Joe and I have always been conservative with our spending, so discovering additional ways to cut costs is not easy. Then one day in early January, I went to Target and spent $32 on two books. That is when it hit me. I would get a library card and potentially save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year!
To many of you this may not seem like a big deal—but to me reading is like crack. Except after I finish the crack, I like to display the little piece of foil the crack came in—as a reminder of the world the drug transported me to.
I hoard books like fine wine. (Who am I kidding, if wine is in the house, I drink it.) I rarely loan out a book—knowing that most likely if it is ever returned, the spine will be cracked and pages stained with caffeine. If I have ever loaned you a book, it is because I know how to hunt you down. Once I loaned out a book of Hannah’s in a gesture of friendship. Neither the gesture of friendship nor the book was returned. (Hope you have enjoyed my daughter’s copy of The Host for the last two years.)
However, now I have college costs to motivate me into unchartered waters of frugality. So, off I went to get the first public library card I had since I was a nine.
The library I choose is located conveniently between home and work, in a pleasant middle class neighborhood. I arrived optimistic and walked anxiously toward the front door. The first indication things had changed since 1975, was the large sign leaning against the front entrance.
It read: “No Shades, No Backpacks, No Hoodies.”
Weird, but okay.
Luckily I had left my shades in the car, was carrying a small purse, and had choose that morning to go with a black turtleneck. The doors parted like the red sea and I stepped inside.
Well, not completely inside, because at this point I was welcomed by a large, dome shaped, airport-like security device. I glanced around curiously, wondering if I needed to take my shoes off and place them in a plastic bin to be scanned. When no one approached, I proceeded unnoticed through the security tunnel.
While a friendly staff member assisted me in applying for a card, I had a few moments to take in my surroundings. I glanced around the shelves expecting to see helpful signs throughout the library guiding me to fiction, self-help, psychology, theology and the like. I quickly realized no signs existed.
I was far from the wonderful world of Barnes and Noble.
I was at the mercy of ye ‘ol Dewy Decimal system—created in 1876.
Disappointed, but undeterred, I took a deep breath and reached for my bright green library card.
I placed the card in my purse and proceeded to walk a few steps toward the center of the library—but I was stopped.
Not physically stopped.
Psychologically stopped—by a woman with physical intensity of Nurse Ratched and the demonic eyes of Bellatrix Lestrange. I realized she was there to monitor computer usage. She scowled at me, using her spell of visual intimidation to force me to offer up any device that could destroy a hard drive. I had nothing.
The Death Eaters remained at bay as I bowed my head and left what felt like the computer lab of a mental hospital.
Browsing through the books, I started having strange thoughts. I wondered where had these books been? Who had borrowed them and what had they done with them while they had them? Some smelled like cigarettes, some like cheap perfume and others like a diaper bag.
Turning a corner to search another aisle, I came face-to-face with Barney Fife.
When did THAT happen?
When did libraries become places that required security personnel?
I was no longer checking out books from a library.
I was checking out books from a library, within a mental institution, within a prison.
I was trapped in Shawshank Redemption.
That was the final crease that broke the book’s binding.
Then I thought of the eager staff member who kindly handed me my card. He had been absolutely joyful at the prospect of a new
inmate client. I could not bare the thought of his heart sinking as I ran from the asylum empty handed. I could not leave without a book.
I found three books, one a memoir by Mary Karr titled Cherry. I thought that appropriate for the occasion, since, well, this was my first time.
I checked out and made my escape. I thought of returning the books the next day and cutting my card to shreds. Instead, I placed the books on top of a towel to soak up an accident my dog had on the carpet. (The books were not harmed, I just needed the weight—but you see my point about not knowing where these books have been.)
Yesterday I started reading Cherry. I am enjoying it—which means I do not see myself checking additional books out of the library. After I finish reading this honest, laugh-out-loud biography, I will have to return it. There will be no little piece of burnt tin foil to remind me of young Mary Karr—her delicate french kiss with John Cleary or her heartbreak when her best friend dumped her to become a candystriper,
I think I will try to find other areas to cut costs. After all, aren’t I helping the economy by purchasing new books?
(And they smell so much better!)