30 April 2009

On Libraries

I used to be anti-libraries. It was something to do with the fact that I didn't know what previous readers before me had done with the books. I didn't know where they'd BEEN. I mean, for crying out loud, they could have been read in the bath, on the toilet or had coffee spilt on them by someone with a bad cough (all of which I am guilty of... so I KNOW).

HOWEVER, I moved to England, ran out of money and realised I couldn't keep buying books AND drink coffee. Trust me, it was a tough, tough decision. But I realised recycled reading matter was less icky than recycled coffee, sucked it up and joined the local library.

Whilst it has given me the chance to re-read gems such as Vernon God Little (and discover new and exciting titles like The Soldier's Seduction) it is woefully behind the times with new releases. I have been on the waiting list for three months to read a copy of Kate Grenville's latest- The Lieutenant. I am "somewhere near the top of the list." I enquired snarkily if there was only one copy doing the rounds in the borough where I live and where there are 23 libraries. "No," came the indignant reply, "there are three."

The library also has a MORONIC policy about permanent stock (the books that, most people agree, should be kept in circulation all the time.) I was with an 8 year old the other day, trying to get the second Harry Potter. The guy behind the desk (who was about 70 and bald, wearing a bandanna and an earring) yawned and shook his head. "I don't know if we have any copies anymore, I think everyone's read it."

I resisted the urge to snarl and make him walk the plank and took the kid down to Waterstones where we found a copy of the book. I complained to the guy behind the counter about the library stock and he shrugged. "I've never been up there. Not a reader."

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