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Yesterday, I had a little extra time to myself and I chose to spend it at the library. I have three library cards: at my town library; at my college; and in Rapid City, about an hour from where I live. None are large libraries. If I go in with a list of twenty books I want to check out, I’ll be lucky if any of these libraries has more than a couple of titles. Still, that doesn’t prevent me from finding plenty of books I want to read. Yesterday, the library had only one of the books I was looking for, but I managed to find 36 books to take home anyway.
I fell in love with libraries when I was a little girl. I grew up in the country, and once every week or two, my mother took me to town to run errands and stock up at the library. It seemed like an impossibly exotic place to me. There were more books than I thought I would be able to read in a lifetime. There was air conditioning, and I still remember how deliciously cold the building felt on a hot Georgia summer day. And there was also a water fountain, which fascinated me. I manufactured a great deal of thirst to have an excuse to slip repeatedly through the double glass doors into the foyer, climb the step stool, press the metal button, and gulp the icy cold water that somehow arced out of the metal box.
Kaye, the librarian, seemed to have the best job in the world–surrounded by books, spending her days touching books, talking books, reading books, buying books, pushing books. (Not to mention the air conditioning and close proximity to the water fountain.) She seemed to know everything. She certainly knew how to make matches between books and readers. She sent me home with stacks of the most wonderful stories–by Russell Hoban, William Steig, James Marshall, Beverly Cleary. She sent my mother home with her preferred reading–romance novels with heaving bosoms on the covers.
I discovered the pleasure of multiple library cards during my college years in Belgium. Each city had a different selection of English-language books, and cards were free. To have access to the best variety, it was necessary to have more than one card. I checked out library books in Antwerpen, Mechelen, and Leuven.
Photo CC-BY clg20171
I spent my Saturdays riding the train between cities, fortifying myself with pastry and loading my backpack with the dozen or more fat volumes I needed to get through the week. There was very little contemporary literature, but there was a treasure trove of Virago Modern Classics, Victorian novels, and the complete oeuvre of Virginia Woolf. I read most of her novels and all of her essays, diaries, and letters over the years I lived in Belgium.
Ever since then, I have always had multiple library cards. Some weeks, I go to three different libraries in two different states. The only disadvantage to multiple library cards is returning books to the wrong library. Oops.
I don’t always read all of the books I check out, but that’s the beauty of the library. You can try out books, and you never have to feel guilty if they don’t work out.