On Libraries

I more or less lived in libraries when I was smaller. The school library, the public library… anywhere I could get a book to read, I was there. Now, I haven’t been in a library on purpose in ages. Not because I don’t think they’re useful, fantastic places, just… because.

It’s the same reason I don’t spend a lot of time in used book shops, mostly, which is that I like my books in good condition.  Mint condition, even. I have books in my shelf which I’ve read three times over and you’d never know it. Seriously, I could bring those books back to the store the day after Christmas, saying it was a duplicate gift, and the person behind the counter wouldn’t give it a second glance because it basically looks new. Also, money hasn’t been much of a problem for most of my adult life. I’ve always been able to keep myself in new books so the impetus to get them free, or cheaper, was never really a factor. You don’t often find new-looking books in a library, and it pisses me RIGHT off when there’s pencil in the margins.

Lately, however, as I’ve been doing research for short stories and novels, and I’ve realized that there’s a lot you can’t learn from Wikipedia and the Internet at large, because details are often glossed over. Sometimes, other sites are untrustworthy (not that Wikipedia is infallible) and you don’t know what you’re getting. Also, you don’t know what you’re missing. The Wikipedia entry on the Roman Empire, for example, contains many facts, but doesn’t contain a lot of the little anecdotes and trivia you’d find if you flipped through several historical books, so that’s what I’ve been hoping to do. That being said, comfortable with money or not, I can’t afford to buy every single book on the history of, or the day to day life in, the Roman Empire.

Yesterday, I accompanied my youngest son with his pre-kindergarten class to the local library. He made a bookmark, listened to stories, and learned about what libraries are good for. I wandered, browsed, and RE-learned what libraries are good for. I renewed my card, restricted myself to a measly three books (by telling myself, “It’s okay, Mike. they’ll be here when you come back. That’s the bloody point!”) and sat and read. My public library even has comic books! Something which certainly wasn’t the case when I was younger.

It was wonderful. Like walking into a coffee shop and accidentally bumping into your best childhood friend, and realizing that you’re still best friends twenty years later.

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