Last week I did a thing I haven’t done for years. I took books out of a public library. I’m working on a project that has frustratingly few resources online, so after a couple of weeks of fighting my way through unyielding websites, I looked up the nearest library.
I got my card renewed (I found it immensely cheering that my details were still on the city library system), and went and hunted for books. (Who would’ve thought that, in these Google-dominated days, the Dewey Decimal system is still going?! It is.) And they still use the same old system – piece of paper glued onto the back page, and a date stamp two weeks from the date of issue to tell you when to bring it back.
The whole thing took time, of course. Time to get there, time to park, time to hunt through the shelves, then hunt again in a different section, then think again where else my information might’ve been filed.
The librarian wore a long skirt. She hmmmed her way through the shelves, muttering, and looked convinced that she had nothing to offer me. But gradually we found four different books, each with more to offer than I’d managed to find on the internet.
It was thoroughly pleasant to walk through a roomful of books, dotted with quiet reading folk nestled in corners and desks. Not even the frenzied photocopying of university libraries, where everyone seems to want to copy material rather than to read it. Nope, just people looking at books, for the sake of reading rather than having.
It was thoroughly pleasant to look through entire books on a subject, rather than flicking from one hyperlink to another, and to use a contents page and an index. And to browse through shelves of books on a subject, instead of wading through pages of advertising-indexed pages. I love using the internet. But it was lovely to rediscover the pleasure of an old-fashioned public library.