This is the story of why I should not be left unsupervised in public libraries, much like children should not be left unsupervised in, say, a bulk candy store.
My husband had a list of CDs he wanted to check out, so we headed downtown to my much-beloved Kansas City Central Library. This library is positively palatial, as all libraries should be – a two-story entranceway with coffered ceiling and chandeliers, a wide aisle leading to the reference desk with rows upon rows of books on either side of you, like pews in a church. There are glass-enclosed stairs leading up to floors of more shelves, computers with flat-screen monitors, cushy reading areas, and more books than you could finish in ten lifetimes. Down in the basement there is “the Vault” where you can peruse the multimedia collection. It is, in short, my idea of heaven.
I already had 21 library books at home, with one now under my arm to return. I definitely don’t need any more books. But the other day I read an essay by Meghan Daum that impressed me, and found that she has published a memoir. I scribbled the title on a post-it note, and since we were headed to the library anyway, why not see if it’s on the shelf? Danny presented the guy at the media desk with his list of 33 CDs, and it looked like it was going to be awhile. So I left him in the Vault and told him I was going to “go grab one book and be right back.”
Clutching my post-it note, I take the elevator to the fourth floor and begin to search the rows. I used to work in one of the largest libraries in the country, so I hold a certain fondness for finding books, like a treasure hunt with a call number instead of a map. And after some walking, I find it.
Here’s my problem. With someone as obsessed as books as I am, you have to understand that a public library is essentially the same as if your favorite luxury clothing store put a sign out and said “FREE CLOTHES! JUST BRING THEM BACK WHEN YOU’RE DONE!” It’s a no-holds-barred buffet. If everyone in the world felt the same way I do about libraries, the scene would resemble Wal-Mart on Black Friday – people snatching things left and right, lining up at 2am for the best goodies. Thankfully, most of the world is less nerdy than I, so I can indulge myself in peace.
So as my hand is hovering over the Meghan Daum title, my eyes drift two rows down, and oh look! There is a book by Nora Ephron. I’ve heard of her famous “I Feel Bad About My Neck” essay, and of course I have to read it. And oh look! There’s another of her books right next to it, I have to get that too. And oh, right next to THAT there are two books by Anne Fadiman, who taught at Yale. My roommate took a writing seminar from her and oh how I was so jealous I didn’t have room in my schedule, so I have to read her books to get some writing inspiration. I look at my growing stack, and oh, speaking of “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” I remember the book “The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted” by Elizabeth Berg, which also deals with similar women’s issues, and I want to read it. So I’m off to a computer to find where it might be, and then off to the first floor to find it. So by the time I go back to the Vault to find Danny, I have not one but six books under my arm. Eyes cast low, like the guilty book glutton that I am.
If I ever tell you I’m going to just “get one book,” it is a cold, hard lie, my friend. Taking me to the library is like handing a compulsive shopper a credit card with virtually no limit, and hearing them say “Oh I’m just going to get one thing” on their way out the door.
So this is how I came to be in possession of 26 library books. I didn’t MEAN to. It was an accident.