Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sadness at the library

I almost bought a tee shirt that said "It's always happy hour at the library" because I am always happy at the library, except for last Tuesday. I got a notice in the mail stating that I was being billed for a lost book, only this was a book I had just returned. Naturally, I was filled to the brim with righteous indignation. Down at the library, they agreed that it was very strange and directed me to the circulation manager, which sounded ominous. And it was. Two seconds later she had produced the book, with obvious water damage to the pages.

Now I looked like a jerk, and the thing was, I had checked that book out for Drama Queen and she had probably spilled the water on it, but I couldn't say that to the circulation manager because then I'd look like someone who blames her children for her own mistakes. So I paid the $30 and left the library with an urge to throttle Miss Drama Queen.

At home, Drama Queen denied spilling anything on the book. She remembered particularly that it had been damaged when we checked it out because a homeless man had been sleeping at a library table nearby and as she flipped through the stiff pages she'd worried the sound they made would wake him. Great. I paid $30 for someone else's irresponsible behavior.

I know I should have pointed out any damage before we checked out the book, but our library has put in self-checkout machines, so there's no human interaction anymore. Drama Queen is lucky that the homeless man was such a convenient memory bookmark. And now we own a knitting book that we didn't want anyway.


Quick book reviews.

Bellwether by Connie Willis. I've loved everything I've read by Connie Willis, who is a science fiction writer, but whose books are more appealing to history and literature lovers than space geeks. She does have a bad habit of using the same comic or descriptive devices over and over throughout her books, but how can I not love a writer who creates characters who deliberately check out lonely library books in order to prevent them from being discarded? Or a character, a scientist, whose only resource for managing a difficult flock of sheep (animal research) is a description of sheep behavior in Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. In other words, Willis' characters behave and think pretty much exactly as I do which leads me to believe that Willis herself is pretty cool too. In Bellwether, a statistician who is researching fads for a large science corporation (HiTek) crosses paths with a biologist who has lost his funding for a big project. The two of them team up on a new project on fads. Bonus material: each chapter begins with a brief description of a fad from history, dating back as far as the 1200s. Great fun and a quick read.

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. This book tells the story of the Oxford English Dictionary and how one of its most valuable contributors was a patient in a "lunatic asylum for the criminally insane." A sad story, but well worth reading.

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. I know, everybody else read this nine years ago. I am always behind the times. At times the forced drama of the writing is irritating, but the passages about the history of the New England fishing industry are fascinating.

4 comments:

  1. Argh! I'd have been mad, too!
    I love any book with history in it--right now I'm reading Sweet & Low and it's really wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had the almost exact same experience at Northside Library. I turned a book in, browsed the library for new books to check out and when I went to check it out, I was told that I had to pay for a book I just turned in because it was wet. I told them I didn't turn in any wet book. Now the book in question was already in two parts; the hard cover and the insides of the book. At my insistence they showed me the book. It was very slightly damp on the tiny corner of a few pages. I refused to pay for a new book and turned in my library card. This was on a Friday. The following Monday, I asked to see the person in charge and she regurjitated? the same thing the other librarian had said on Friday. I asked to see the book and was told that the circulation manager had tossed it in the trash on Friday as it was no good. I wrote our county supervisor and the person he referred me to. I got the same song and dance. Something is wrong with our PUBLIC library here in Charlottesville; they must be looking for new revenue by picking on innocent victims like me and you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is how I bought my copy of Set This House on Fire, which I still haven't read. Only it was grape juice, and it was my son's fault, not a homeless guy's. And I think I don't mind owning the book. Apparently it's just the thought of reading the book that bothers me. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is how I bought my copy of Set This House on Fire, which I still haven't read. Only it was grape juice, and it was my son's fault, not a homeless guy's. And I think I don't mind owning the book. Apparently it's just the thought of reading the book that bothers me. :)

    ReplyDelete