Flip Through

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How do you imagine Heaven?

Libraries both excite and depress me. It's an interesting mix, and while excitement generally wins out, occasionally I run into things which shove depression over the top.

For instance--books which never get checked out. Seriously, it's like the Island of Misfit Toys or something for these books. It's sad. Now, I can understand why The Scarlett Letter wouldn't see much action, but really good books like The Once and Future King? Who doesn't love a little King Arthur, a little WWII-era political ranting? And it's happening right in your local library. I'd guarantee it. People are going for the Danielle Steels and Jodi Picoults on the New Fiction! rack at Borders, and leaving the dusty classics behind to lean against one another, weary on the library shelves. In the library of my university, there are at least three books which, over the course of the last year, have only been checked out by yours truly. That's because I like to read books multiple times, and I also like to note how often a book I love gets read, in hopes of someday finding some like-minded souls to talk to (I really do wish they still stamped your name in books instead of anonymous checked-out-checked-in dates). However, the yearning for my own private book club will have to remain a happy daydream, because apparently I'm the only person in the school who enjoys reading George Orwell. I can't fathom how no one else has discovered the joys of Keep the Aspidistra Flying; the first time I read it, I thought I was reading my own brainwaves--that shock, that thrill of familiarity. Or Coming Up for Air, another of Mr Blair's neglected gems, which hadn't seen sunlight since November of 1999. It's safe to assume, even though USF stands for 'U Stay Forever', that the last person to read Coming Up for Air is long gone from the campus. No luck for a meeting of the minds.

I guess what I find so hard to understand is why people wouldn't want to use a library. Especially a huge college library, and USF's isn't even that big. I can't imagine what I'd do with a library like Yale's or Columbia's. Probably go inside and just never come out again, a regular missing-person case. All those books at your disposal--for FREE! FREE, people! No jacked-up hardback prices, no bookstore employees bugging you about buy three, get the fourth free! like that's some kind of deal...just plain reading bliss, for free (unless you return books late, but only losers rack up overdue fines). Really, the worst-case scenario as far as libraries are concerned is that they won't have the book you want, and in that case, there's always some library that does. Loans, people, they're a great invention.

A friend of mine postulates that libraries are unused because people simply don't read anymore. I guess he could be right. I hope he's not.
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