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.