Saturday, April 11, 2009

Libraries make me sick to my stomach

I like books. I am currently reading "The Defining Moment," by Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, on FDR's first 100 days. I have a stack of books near my bookshelf that are waiting in line.

But I hate the library. There's something about the smell of the place. Whenever I walk in a library, I have nauseating flashbacks of my youth. As a kid, the only time I went to the library was when I had a report to write for school. On arrival, I usually had not decided what to write about, and had a week or so to not only pick a topic, but to crank out six or seven pages (double-spaced, of course) on the old word processor. Assignments had requirements that came with them, including a standard number and type of sources to use in the bibliography. Sometimes finding more than two books on the same topic was hard. It was all so painful. Maybe that's why I feel pain today when I enter a library.

They should do something at libraries to give kids a positive impression of it. Like sell ice cream.

From a practical perspective, my loathing of libraries doesn't make sense. I should love the concept of the library. I have a full bookshelf of read books that I won't read again, which is a waste. This summer I plan to bring many of them down to the family beach cottage in Connecticut, so they can sit on a bookshelf there. Using the library is far more economical, and at least you know you didn't waste money if you don't like the book.

Boston has a great library system; there's a Boston Public Library branch in each neighborhood (well, pretty much). Beacon Hill is too small to have a branch, but the West End branch is right down the street and is more than adequate to service both neighborhoods. I only go there to vote, as it's also the voting location for Ward 5, Precinct 4. One time after voting I actually got a library card. But it's never been used.

It's so strange because I really like bookstores. I worked off a grant in college for Barnes & Noble to create a website for college kids called "Loci," and as a result the bookstore chain gave me my first job offer after college (It was a great offer, but decided I couldn't move to New York City).

Obviously my problem with libraries is all psychological. Maybe it's because of all the late return library fees I had to pay-- as a senior at Boston University, I called the administration office three times during the final week of exams to make sure there weren't any errant charges popping up on my account that would affect the receipt of my diploma that final Sunday. Thinking way back, I also remember the vivid panic rumbling through my mind as I frantically searched my room as a kid looking for the book I needed to return.

Yes, libraries have caused me a lot of psychological discomfort over the years, which is why I have personally contributed to the growth of Barnes & Noble--online and off.


Scot Colford said...

Maybe you just haven't met the right librarian yet.

Come back to the library! We miss you! (I'm speaking for all the librarians of Boston.)

Lisa Lisa said...

Ross, I think we've discussed this before but I share your anti-library sentiment for 2 reasons:

1) I like to own books so then I can lend them to others.

2) In high school, I asked a librarian for a piece of paper to finish up the last problem of my math homework. She said no. She seriously wouldn't give me a piece of paper. Now I hate the library and the blood of that library love is on her hands.

Scot Colford said...

Again. I reiterate that you have not yet met the right librarian. Ignore my profile pic. It was a tongue-in-cheek ad for the BPL that really doesn't reflect who we are now. Come back to the library. And tell me if anyone treats you badly. I'll speak to them directly.

Scot Colford
Web Services Manager
Boston Public Library