When I first moved to the city, the chance to go to the Central Branch on a regular basis was one of the things I was looking forward to the most. The Branch is about a half-hour drive from where I grew up, so going there was a rare treat, and normally I contented myself with my town's library branch, or occasionally that of the next town over.
Now that I get to go on a regular basis, some of the sheen has worn off. Why? For one thing, it's always crowded. But worse than that, it's generally crowded with people who seem to be unfamiliar with how to act in a library. People talking so loudly on their cell phones that the entire section could hear them. People having raucous conversations in the stacks, despite the fact that the library cafe is only a few feet away, and that there are three or four regular cafes on the same block. Someone apparently applied deordorant at one of the computer stations, because when I got there, the plastic thingy was left right next to the mouse. Ewwww.
The library staff seems to have made the decision not to police everyone's behavior for minimum wage. It makes sense, in a way. The cell phone offenders are so legion that if you made it your business to tell them all to STFU, it would be virtually all you did. But worse, some of the staff are also ignorant of how to act in a library. The cafe workers had the Bee Gees blasting so loud you could hear it in the adjacent stacks. The reference desk woman wouldn't ask them to turn it down, so I had to. The girl gave me a blank, shocked stare, and turned it down. Come on! It's supposed to be a quiet place. It's not Abercrombie and Fitch. It's not a traditional coffee joint. IT'S A LIBRARY. THAT MEANS QUIET.
Asking her to turn it down made me feel like a crotchety old lady, but you know, our society is so noisy. Banks and fast-food places have television sets and music on, lest you fail to be totally stimulated while waiting in line. JetBlue Airlines has little televisions in the back of each seat, and they're rigged to make turning them off less than intuitive. If you manage to turn it off before liftoff, it'll turn back on again once the plane is in the air and assault you with your viewing options. When you go to the cinema, a television is playing a loop of previews while you buy your tickets and popcorn. So what's wrong with having one quiet place? I liked the cafe at first and thought it was a good way to draw people in. Now I think they'd be there regardless and it just makes the library noisier.
My aggravation with the other patrons was matched by my aggravation in choosing books. Unlike a typical visit, I knew what I wanted...and of course, it wasn't in. So I wandered around for about an hour and still managed to find eight books, as follows:
Where You Once Belonged, Kent Haruf. It was featured on the end shelf, and its plot kind of reminded me of one of Tawni O'Dell's novels.
Carson McCullers Complete Novels, Carson McCullers. Trust me, NOT how I would have chosen to read the rest of her work. The volume is suspiciously slim, too. But other than a bunch of other copies of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and her short stories, that was all they had of her. I took it. I may or may not read it.
Gig: Americans talk about their jobs at the turn of the millenium, ed. John Bowe. An updated version of Studs Terkel's marvelous Working. Hope it's as good!
I'm looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted, by Jennifer Finney Boylan. It's non-fiction. I can't really determine what it will be about, but it looks intriguing. I'll let you know!
Free Range Kids: giving our children the freedom we had, Lenore Skenazy. I'm a big fan of her blog,Free Range Kids, and her book was literally the first thing I saw when I came into the library.
Ava's Man, Rick Bragg. This is part two in a trilogy, apparently. I found Part Three in their "Staff Picks" section. It looked interesting, but I decided to try to go chronologically. It's a sort of family memoir.
Modern Ranch Living, Mark Jude Poirer. I read one of his novels and a short story of his, too. They were both terrific, and I bumped into this one and decided to grab it.
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, Jon Krakauer. His books are always good, and I recently saw him on The Daily Show promoting this one.
So that should keep me busy for a while, and hopefully, keep me from having to return to the library!