Sunday, 9 March 2008

Library Love March 9

I can’t quite believe that we get to read books for free. It’s one of the great joys of my life that I can walk up the road to my local library and pick up a book to read, the equivalent of several days entertainment, for nothing. It’s the only thing of real value we get free in this country which doesn’t involve extra fees or admission payments.
I spend a lot of time at my local library which conveniently presents itself as a gothic looking building giving me the immediate persona of a budding Jane Austen as I eagerly enter its doors. I’m always surprised that it’s not packed out, like the local shopping mall with people eager to take advantage of a good book for free. But perhaps reading still has a way to go in the “exciting ways to spend your weekend” stakes. The only problem with my library is that being a community gathering place I run into my husband’s former wife quite a lot. It’s always nice to see her so that’s not the problem. It’s the books I get out that are.
My library gets books “in” for me from other libraries for a small fee of one dollar. The librarian has to get them from behind the counter. And that’s the problem
Once, I was researching a piece I was writing about keeping the love alive in marriage. Honestly. I write an advice column. Truly. I had gathered a few interesting looking books off the shelves and went over to check them out and pick up the marriage book I had ordered earlier which proved elusive. While the librarian hunted I chatted to the former wife about this and that until we were interrupted with:
“Ah here it is. Under “L” instead of “N” for Nissen. Resurrecting Sex: Solving Sexual Problems and Revolutionizing Your Relationship’ – is that the one?”
“It’s for research!” I shouted a little too quickly and rather loudly. “Something I’m writing,” I attempted as I avoided looking at her face for fear of seeing either a commiserating look that often passes between women who have or had the same husband or a stunned: “what the hell?”By the time I had produced my card and checked the offending title out she had wandered off into the kids section, so I’ll never know which look she gave me.
The second time was a recent visit where the two of us met again, quite by chance, and were chatting amiably at the counter while once again I waited for the librarian to retrieve the book I ordered which once again seemed not to have been filed under “N” for Nissen.
We were discussing her recent trip to Europe and my upcoming one to Venice where I was vigorously defending my right to travel alone to work on my book to someone I knew would see it my way.
“Ah here it is. Venice for Lovers - is that the one?” shouted the librarian.This time I didn’t even attempt the research line.
“Yes that’s right, it’s a book for lovers of Venice you know. Not the other way around, ha, ha” I said weakly.
The librarian smiled. I knew she believed me. She is my favourite librarian.
I don’t know her name because I’ve never asked but she always makes me laugh and on this occasion rescued me from deep shame and humiliation in front of the ex by presenting yet another book she knows I’ll love. The last one was about how to ice cup cakes so that they look like body parts. This one was titled “I Like You, Hospitality Under the Influence,” by Amy Sedaris. I’m not sure how my favourite librarian got to know me so well, but I appreciate the fact that she takes the time to keep books aside that will amuse me.
As an author I’m supposed to dislike the library system because the 17 copies of my own book currently doing the rounds in the Auckland catalogue stop people going out and paying good money for it. I can see that’s a problem for publishers but I’m pathetically grateful people are reading it and have to resist the urge to bribe my favourite librarian to access the computer system and allow me to email a personal letter of appreciation to every lender. Knowing that they’re being entertained for free is one of the great joys of my life.

No comments: