Unlike health care, no one ever complains about socialism when it comes to the library. Everybody loves the library. Where else can you hang out all day long without having to buy a vanilla latte and a chocolate-covered graham cracker?
And it’s all free! All of it: whatever you want to take, take it, check it out! Yeah, you gotta bring it back, but by then your big idea to do the exercises in Shape-Up Shortcuts is played out anyway and you want to get that book that might supposedly explain wtf was up with that movie The Room.
My History At the Library
I progressed from picture books and story hour to checking out enormous stacks of books. Sixteen books at once was pretty much my speed.Â When we weren’t at the library my sister and I often set up our own library at home and took turns being “patron” and “librarian,” using a flashlight to check out books.
I became obsessed with books about whales. Then I became obsessed with a particular biography of Hitler, which I checked out seven times, probably baffled that it wasn’t fiction. From there the world cracked open: Anne Frank, Judy Blume, books of dirty cartoons, the mafia, the Impressionists, children who solved mysteries…
The library was a safe place and a refuge. I made my first phone call to a boy at the public library (first call that was not a prank), calling up some guy I thought was hot, although now I really only remember that he had brown hair, and asking him to homecoming even though I’d never had a date to anywhere, not even a study date at the library. He had a friend over and they both got on the line, making fun of me for calling, crushing me.
I so didn’t get how things worked in a small-to-medium-sized city in Wisconsin in the late 80’s.
Most likely I retreated to the aisle where the dirty cartoon books were. Half of the cartoons I didn’t get, a quarter of them were ripped out of the book by some pervert and the other ones were not funny. But that didn’t stop me from looking.
By junior high I had long-since ditched the children’s section and even most of the teen fare, preferring to spend my time in the adult fiction aisles. My mom had to give permission for me to go into the adult section. I guess maybe they were worried that I’d stumble upon The Clan of the Cave Bear or something.
In college I spent a lot of time hiding at the library. I wouldn’t do much studying. Mostly I dragged the enormous reference books that listed other colleges into a study carrel and tried to plot my escape. Or I looked at listings for international cooking schools.
Once, I persuaded a boyfriend to helpÂ me steal a book I thought was important – The Decade of Women: A Ms. Book, edited by Gloria Steinem. I guess my Women’s Studies classes inspired a life of crime instead of fighting for social justice.
We had getaway bikes and everything, which we jumped on just as the alarm went off and pedaled for our lives. Then I did something stupid and cut pictures out of the book for the purpose of a womyn-centered collage.
I still have the book, holes and all. It’s sitting on my shelf:
I would never steal from the library now. That is literally one of the dumbest things a person could do – steal from the library, where all the information is free. All you have to do is slide your card and you’ve got five vegan cookbooks and a novel about a family that fights all the time. Just bring them back in a reasonable amount of time, like after you’ve renewed them 4 times and kept them two weeks past the due date…
But no one asks you where the hell it is. They don’t call you up and say, “Are you ever bringing that book about the Gabors back? Huh? Are you? You are not even reading it.” But the cover is rad…
Today, I’m a Friend of the Hennepin County Library (my neighborhood library isÂ Washburn in south Minneapolis. Represent!) which means that I pay a membership fee in the hope that they can put that money to use buying more stuff for us all to feast our eyes on. Or whatever they need to do with it – clean the bathrooms? I don’t care!
Today HCL is participating in Give To the Max Day, a 24-hour fundraiser for Minnesota nonprofits. I don’t know about you, but I want the library to have millions of dollars for books and programs – who knows, if we all give a little bit maybe more Minneapolis libraries can be open on Sundays. Education is what’s going to change the world. Plus, People magazine for free, yo.