The Library – My New Book Store

Andrea Freedman

After leaving my job and regular pay cheque to focus more seriously on my writing career, I also began to think more seriously about ways to save money. I became reluctant to buy things I had not thought twice about in the past, such as books. However, not about to forfeit my avid reading hobby, I decided to give my local library a try.

It did not take long to realize the error I had committed in so callously overlooking the library. The serene atmosphere had been wasted on me, until I got over myself and decided that rather than purchasing more books that would only take up space once I had read them, my love for reading could still be satisfied, for free and without collecting more dust.

I can browse the library almost as if I were in a book store – a real book store that is, without endless giftware items to distract from the books. Just spending time there, before I have even chosen a book, leaves me feeling calm. Everyone there is browsing, working on the computer, or reading quietly, civilly sharing a common space without ever actually interacting with one another.

I had to get used to the library at first, leaving empty-handed after my first few visits. I had been hoping to find a soft-cover book, as hard-covers are so heavy. I finally accepted the fact that I would just have to start reading hard-cover, plastic-wrapped books as those are the most commonly offered in the library. After all, since I am not actually going to work, I don’t always have to necessarily take my book with me on the subway so the extra weight is only a slight inconvenience.

I have also come to appreciate the protective plastic cover that is found on many library books. When my hands are sweaty, which they often are, the plastic is actually a welcome benefit, ensuring that I will not unnecessarily damage the book. I even find the crackling sound it makes when I open the book comforting and I feel a sense of camaraderie when I spot other people reading in a public place and immediately recognize if they are reading a library book.

It is interesting to see the things that people who borrowed the book before I did leave behind. I have found bus transfers, personal notes and grocery lists inside books. I wonder if the person who left it there remembered after they had returned the book, and whether or not he or she thought about going back to the library in the hopes of finding the book there with whatever piece of paper was left behind still intact.

Everything went along nicely for a while once I had gotten the hang of things at the library and was on to my third or fourth book until, to my shock, I saw a small hair in between two pages. I blew it away carefully without letting it touch me, convincing myself that the worst thing it could be was an eyelash, albeit someone else’s eyelash.

The smile faded from my lips as I realized, dismayed, that to make matters worse, the book I had been enjoying was marred with what looked like pieces of food. I was not about to attempt to get rid of it; after all, someone else may have licked their fingers before touching that food and smearing it on the book, leaving not only the food residue, but germs in their wake as well.

I must admit that there have been occasions when I have felt put off when I have come across stains on the pages, indicating spilled coffee or some other food-related accident. Sometimes, if a book looks pristine from the outside, and if it is a fairly new release, I don’t always think to check before I sign it out, only to be reminded of my mistake once I leave the library.

A thought occurred to me. What if, when I return the book to the library, they think it is I who has defaced it? I wondered if I should point it out, or if that would be against library etiquette. Would the library staff appreciate being made aware of it?

When I realized one day that the bottle of water that had been in my bag, which also contained my library book, had leaked and had left a ring of moisture on the edges of several of the pages of my current library book, at first I was horrified. However, after my initial upset, I was kind of happy about it. It may not be much, and very difficult to detect, but now, I too had made my mark on this book. And no, I was not about to bring it to the librarians’ attention.

I may now be slightly cautious before reading a library book in bed, and will have to be especially careful not to let any offending residue fall out and make its way onto my furniture or my person for that matter; nevertheless, becoming a regular patron of the library has taught me that while every book tells a story, a library book, passed on from one reader to the next, might just tell another story all its own.♦

Copyright © Andrea Freedman


About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on May 13, 2013, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Nicely said, as usual. I’ve heard a rumor that you can get free downloads of books at the library. May be a way to avoid crumbs etc….


  2. Phil and Gloria Freedman

    I can identify with you about holding a library book when I’m having a meal or taking it to a place in my home that is sanitary just used by my husband and myself. It is kind of creepy to realize that so many hands have held the book I am now reading. Great story.


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