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Shhhh... libraries are weird places

I popped into the library with an armload of returns this morning. It's been a long time since I was at the library without the distraction of the kids. I'd forgotten how quiet they actually are.

I wasn't supposed to borrow any books because we are still searching for "Animal 1, 2, 3" which has gone missing somewhere in the depths of the girls' bedroom. I worry a great deal about what Animal 1, 2, 3 is going through in there. It won't be pretty. I think one day we'll come across a copy of Animal 1, 2 and realise  we were too late.

While returning the latest batch of books, I spotted a couple of Andy Griffins that I knew Max hadn't read yet and couldn't resist scooping them up. That led to finding two Ivy and Bean's for Cappers and a few whimsically illustrated picture books for Badoo (I am a sucker for a whimsically illustrated picture book - resistance against Oliver Jeffers is futile!). Then there was a coveted Hugh Fernley-Whatchamacallit River Cottage Man find for me and... next thing I knew, I had a stack of seventeen books.

Waiting in the line to borrow, I realised I didn't have my library card.

"I don't have my card," I said to the comfortably cardiganed librarian. "Can I still borrow?"

"Have you borrowed without a card in the past two years?" she asked.

"Two years? Um... I don't know. Why two years?"

"You can only borrow without your card once every two years," she intoned. "I'll just check."

"That seems a weird rule," I said, good humouredly. "Two years is such a long and... arbitrary time..."

She gave me 'the look'. That look peculiar to librarians that serves to remind you that you are in hallowed space and unintelligent chatter will not be tolerated here.

"You have fines of $124.20 owing on your card," she said.

"A hundred and... wha?!" I yelped. "Like, more than a hundred??"

"Yes," she said. Cue 'the look'. "You'll need to pay the fines before you can borrow on the card without your card."

"It's such a lot," I whisper dejectedly.

I looked longingly at my Hugh Fernley-Whatchamacallit and sadly pushed the books across the counter. "I don't have that kind of money on me," I said sadly. "I never have that kind of money on me. We'll have to go without."

"I could hold them for you?"

"No thanks, I couldn't take the suspense."

"Oh, okay... Well, if you borrow a lot of books at once and don't return them on time, 50c per item per day really adds up quickly," she sympathised, giving me that 'other look' that librarians specialise in. The other look that says, you poor thing, as it happens we are also a caring and wonderfully giving hallowed space that doesn't tolerate unintelligent chatter. "You know, I could probably dismiss the fines this one time and next time you can return your books on time..."

"You could do that," I asked in wonder. "Just like that?"

"Only this one time," she said. "Once every two years."

Are you a regular visitor to your local library? (Clearly we are not regular enough!)

And when you see photos of books like the one of part of my bookshelves up there, do you always check out the titles? Can you see my sister's copy of Stephen King's On Writing front and centre that I assured her two years ago that I had returned? Whoops.


SarahMac said...

Oh I am a librarian and believe me you have no idea how VERY VERY weird libraries and librarians truly are. That random 2 year rule is so hilarious! Gah!!

Tricia said...

$124! I've had big library fines before - but not that big ;-)

I love our library - and I've started trying to get there every week in an attempt to avoid the late fee problem. They have around 20 DVDs of Little House on the Prairie and Little Eco and I are working our way through them.

kell said...

Yes. Love our library and am always borrowing without my card! What's with the 2-year rule? Thank goodness she waived your fee Bron. Happy reading xx

Mother Down Under said...

I love going to the library...there is a playground right next door so we scoot in, get some books and then have a play.
I also love that I can hold books through the Internet...makes my trips so quick...although then I miss the lovely aimless browsing.

Lea said...

We visit our library regularly and borrow loads at a time so yes if they are late back they sure do add up. Our library has a wonderful food for fines program each Christmas where you can donate groceries to the value of your fines which are then distributed by charity to local families in need. I love the feeling of wiping the slate clean and being able to something good for someone at the same time. Win win!

Rae Hilhorst said...

I love the food fine idea, write them a letter, so much more community minded. Isn't that what libraries are all about to service the community, not fine them. I don't get that you can only borrow a book for 3 weeks, I don't get through a book in three weeks, so no longer go to the library, got fed up with the fines xxx

Lisa@RandomActsOfZen said...

I love our local library so much, and bonus, it has a fabulous coffee shop!
We've been going ever since Bell was a little possum, and I never could resist a Mick Inkpen for the illustrations alone. xx

mel @ loved handmade said...

That does all sound a bit crazy. We lost a book so I just had to pay the retail price, $4 something, and I'd be refunded if we found it. We did find it but kept it, it was just easier. Also, another time, our guy at the library whispered to me that they don't actually charge a late fee on children's books, they just don't advertise the fact, a bit like waiving the 2 yr rule..

Amy xxoo said...

I take my little people to the library once a week for 'Rhyme Time ' but very rarely borrow for myself... Its hard to get through a book in 3 weeks with two small children and a business to run!

Megan Blandford said...

They really are weird places! I went in the other day to pick up a book my husband had ordered in, and just casually mentioned that I had my card but not his. The Librarian was quite affronted by this and told me off - but decided she would "allow" me to do it "just this once". (Once every two years, perhaps?!)

Brenda @ Mira Narnie said...

I'm a semi regular at our library and a most terrible returner! I know I have overdue fees as we speak and there are books sitting on my table that have to go back, because they are overdue! The nice thing is they don't make you pay more than $35 but I love that your library waived that horrid fee for you Bron! xx

Emily said...

Ah, Oliver Jeffers. I want them all.

Bless our library - I get a reminder email three days before things are due back, and one a week later if they're not back yet.

They also have a GREAT business magazine section so camping at the library is a regular afternoon pastime for us.

therhythmmethod said...

I love our library, but I make a point of not talking to anyone while I'm there (sans kids). I don't want to pop the bubble of quiet, it's such a rare thing nowadays.

rhon said...

I always have fines...this is why I love my library's new ebook lending! My lovely kindle returns the book for me!

Michelle said...

You naughty girl! Can't believe they let you off, if only speeding fines were as easy :D I love the library I head there a few times a month and take home design books that Im too stingy to buy myself!

Tas said...

Heh, heh. Librarians can be so scary.

Our library is our home away from home but there is no leniency on lost books. Makes it high pressure when 3 kids under 10 borrow over 20 books each per sympathies on the lost of Animal 1, 2, 3. I wonder if lost library books hide out with all those lost single socks?

I was chatting the other night to someone who told me about a school library that had gotten rid of all its books and was now all digital.

Saddest. thing. ever.

My kids may end up with everything on computer in their future but I hope that we have cultivated a love for real, live books in the meantime.

Kate @ Kate Writes said...

We had a run away book last year which I ended up paying for as I could not take the stress of not returning it any more. We had given up on 'The Awful Pawful' and moved on when, while on holiday in Vanuatu, my husband opened a pocket on a backpack...and there it was! The children thought it was hilarious that the book was like a stowaway on holiday.

Kymmie said...

Oh, I couldn't help but giggle at this! Hmmm, that IS strange. Glad she wrote off the debt though. Now, don't you borrow anything for two more years, you hear me? xxx

Jane@flightplatformliving said...

oh boy, i am so very glad it's not just me who runs up[ fines like that at the library! x

Jodie Sinclair said...

As and ex Librarian AND an ex mum to littlies, I can see both sides! I too used to sweat when we lost a library book in the bowels of a kids room, but as a librarian, the fines are just there to get people to return the books. She was very kind to you!!

ally said...

You have so many great books on that shelf!!!
I'm still raving about Stasiland after reading it recently.
I love our library - we go lots - I'm sure we keep them in business with our fines though

Karla {Ironmum Karla} said...

Such a library nerd. Without fail once a week and I reckon that has been going on since I can remember. We actually go to other libraries (is this a sad thing to confess?) because we have read all the books, and there is always something on hold. Needless to say I get my monies worth in rates and have an empty bookshelf because I borrow and return. 50cents a day that is steep!x

ginplustonic said...

Ha! I know that look, similar to the one when I wait for the librarian to engage in my kiddy banter with Buddy when borrowing, takes me a while to realise I won't win that game.

Not ashamed to say I still enjoy sitting in the aisles to peruse my books.

emma @ frog, goose and bear said...

I left the sunroof open on our car last year by accident and there was a bag full of library books on the passenger seat..... as Murphy's law would have it, it bucketed down with rain that night and all books saturated!! Left them to dry and they all went mouldy! As I am one of those stupid honest folk I ended up paying for them all. Can't remember amount but over $100. Got to keep the books at least and the kids don't seem to mind the mould!

emma @ frog, goose and bear said...

I left the sunroof open on our car last year by accident and there was a bag full of library books on the passenger seat..... as Murphy's law would have it, it bucketed down with rain that night and all books saturated!! Left them to dry and they all went mouldy! As I am one of those stupid honest folk I ended up paying for them all. Can't remember amount but over $100. Got to keep the books at least and the kids don't seem to mind the mould!

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