The Librarian’s Life For Me

I took my mom to the library yesterday after her doctor appointment. I returned the book I’d found on my last trip there, and looked up the book that’s on the list for book club. Nope, still not available. I have options, however, so I’m not worried.

I always have the Kindle option, although I’m not going to buy this particular book unless I have to. I thought I’d seen this book at a thrift shop, so I’ll keep checking. It’s not a big deal. Mom picked out a half dozen books and joked that they might last her a couple of days.

What occurred to me as I was doing a mindless task here at work was how much I enjoyed working at a library. When I was a teenager, I volunteered at our local library, leading Story Hour, shelving books, checking out books, preparing new books for lending. I loved the smell of the new books.

Mom had mentioned to me on the way to the library that she’d tried reading a book on her Nook, but it just wasn’t the same. She missed the feel of paper in her hands, turning the physical page. I could appreciate her view. There are times when I’m reading a novel that I have to turn back and review — especially if a book has several characters. It’s a little more complicated to do with a Kindle.

After I’d been laid off from my job at the newspaper, I went to the public school district and worked as a substitute aide. One of my more fun assignments was working at a junior high library. Their assistant was gone for an extended time, so I was welcomed back each day for a couple of weeks.

Generally, working in a library is quiet. I like that. (And where I work now is normally quiet, too.) I like the quiet, because then I can hear myself think. You’d think that working for a newspaper would be a noisy job, but it’s not anymore. Computers are very quiet.

I love to promote reading. That was another reason I liked working at the newspaper. I was encouraging the next generation of newspaper readers — a valuable job that apparently didn’t translate to the bottom line in the publisher’s eyes.

Nowadays I get to promote reading with my sister’s granddaughter. I get to babysit now and then, and before bedtime, Little G brings me book after book, and we read them. Soon she’ll be reading them for herself, but she’ll still want the closeness of having a book read to her.

Working at the school library kept me limber, too. Books had to be shelved on ALL the shelves — the ones at the top, and the ones at the bottom. Books had to be moved on a regular basis, to make room on the shelves for new books or books brought back.

I got to prepare books for lending. That’s changed some. Each book is inventoried by computer now, rather than a hand-written ledger, and magnetic strips are added to the spines of books instead of paper cards and card envelopes.

Checking out has become much easier. Students handed me their school IDs and their books were scanned and handed back to them. Boom, done. Newspapers were returned to the stacks, chairs were pushed in to the tables, and returned books were sorted for reshelving.

And then another class came in. School libraries now have computers, but I didn’t get too involved with debugging them or updating them. Students were generally respectful of the technology, and sometimes needed help finding a good source.

The thing I learned most was about new authors for junior high students. If an author could sustain a series that held the interest of a kid, they were golden. And there were several series to choose from — some of them fantasy, some of them sports-related, some of them mystery. I didn’t get to read any of them — no time for that. But I did get familiar with the names.

One big eye-opener was the number of graphic novels out there. Basically they’re comic books in book format. The story is told through pictures and words — most popular were the anime books from Japan. The only way I could justify them was to tell myself that some kids learn visually. I get that. I just don’t know how complex a story could be if you draw pictures about it.

Visiting the library these days is still fun. There are more computers, DVDs and CDs where I go, but there are still books. And when I see a rolling cart with books piled on it, I just want to take a volume out and reshelve it. Would anyone stop me?