Sunday was a strange day. My local library is closing for 10 weeks — they’re moving to a new location, and until December they’ll be busy moving the physical books from one location to another. Obviously they wouldn’t be having this problem if all of their texts were ebooks. But what’s even stranger is that dozens of library patrons lined up to exploit a loophole!
I’d asked the obvious question: What happens if we check out a book, and it’s due after October 4th? And they’d replied that we could keep the book — they’d have no place to put it — so we wouldn’t have to return it until more than two months later! Sunday I rushed to the library for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have any book for 10 weeks. And suddenly I noticed that the parking lot was jam-packed — not a single space left — as though all the readers in town had the exact same idea.
It was ominous. The library would be open for just one half hour more. And within minutes the check-out line was huge — backed up halfway across the width of the building, and then turning 90 degrees, where it continued through an entire low shelf in the children’s section. The librarians looked harried, and I estimated there were 50 eager readers, clutching massive armfuls of precious library books. And I got another shock when I finally made my way to the library’s DVD section.
The DVD racks were empty! There were just bare wire shelves where most of the DVDs used to be. I saw a handful of very-unwanted remainders left behind. Later I joked to my girlfriend that it was “library apocalypse” day.
But I was still very I excited, because I could finally have any book I wanted, and I could keep it for 10 weeks! I began looking at the books differently, asking myself which titles I’d score now? My first thought was to check out hard copies of books that I’m reading slowly on the Kindle. Partly it’s an experiment — I want to see what it’s like to switch back to reading a book. But it’s also because my girlfriend and I keep wanting to use the Kindle at the same time!
Unfortunately, in the library, I couldn’t find a printed version of every book that I wanted to read — unlike the Kindle store. But since I’ve been reading a lot of biographies of the American frontier, I checked out “supplementary material.” (What happened to Buffalo Bill after he finished writing his autobiography — and which of his western exploits did historians think he was exaggerating?) I also checked out The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin — which is currently one of the top-selling free ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle store. And it was nice to know I’d also have 10 weeks to enjoy the coffee-table sized book about the life of Ben Franklin, which had some great glossy pictures which, honestly, would look much better in a full-color printed book.
I had to use the card catalog to find a book about Billy the Kid — the other historical figure I’m reading about. And then I swerved over to the Video section to see if I could still find anything left. There were “slim pickings,” but I eventually found a work-out tape. (Maybe with 10 weeks, I’ll finally get around to actually exercising with it at least once). Usually library videos are due in one week, so this felt like a rare treat. And there were a few DVDs left behind that I was actually interested in.
I was like a kid in a candy store, grabbing videos because — hey, why not? And then the library announced over the loudspeakers that they were closing until December 7, and no books would be checked out after 5 p.m. (“Thank you and goodnight.”) In reality, they had to keep the check-out desk open far beyond 5:00 to handle the throng of eager readers trying desperately to stock up on books. For the interim, they assured us, we could also check out books from the library at the local elementary school.
I came home with an enormous stack of books — and a smile on my face. I told myself I was like a Viking pillaging the library, and I was very excited about my treasures. I spent a few minutes showing my girlfriend my new stack of books — which, with all this extra time, I may finally finish reading!
And that night, I began reading them…while my girlfriend continued reading on the Kindle!