Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I love you madly, madly, Madam Librarian

by Robison Wells

I’ll begin today with the preface that this blog might offend some of you. And furthermore, if it does offend you, then so much the better, because you’ve had it coming for a long time, wise guy.

Last week, Julie Coulter Bellon wrote about how she loves books and reading and bookshelves and public libraries. I replied that I really don’t like public libraries, and I have since received inquiries into that position. This blog ventures to answer that question. So climb aboard the Self-Discovery Express, as we journey deep into the psyche of a Library Hater.

I started down the writing road a little differently from many authors. I never liked English in high school. I never won elementary school essay contests. I wasn’t born with a pencil in my hand, and I wouldn’t suffocate if I didn’t write all the time. Authors who say those kinds of thing are pretentious and mentally stuck in freshman drama class.

On the contrary, I never even liked writing until college. For that matter, until college I never really liked books at all. I was never bad at reading and writing – I just found them a little distasteful. Ultimately, I think it was Huckleberry Finn that changed my mind. Several years after bluffing my way through eleventh grade English, writing essays and taking tests on the book that I had never actually read (and getting grades that matched my effort), I found an old copy and a spare day, and read the thing from cover to cover. I suddenly realized that maybe English wasn’t so bad, and maybe there was a reason that classics are classics. (Then I read The Grapes of Wrath, and was proved wrong.)

Anyway, my point is that I never grew up towing my little red wagon to the library, loading up on Charles Dickens and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, finding glee and excitement in my very own library card! Truth be told, I only ever went when I followed my brother to satisfy his literary sweet tooth, and I always just checked out the same books about model railroads, over and over. So my love of libraries (and, oh my goodness, do I have one) was spawned in college – at the U of U’s Marriott Library.

Let me elucidate a few of the differences between the Marriott Library and the public library.

Okay, so there’s only one, but it’s all encompassing: the Marriott Library is quiet, while the public library is a frickin’ train station.

Oops. I forgot that there’s a second reason: the Marriott Library has lots and lots of books, while the public library has inter-library loans. If I wanted to wait a week to get my book, I would... well, I’d just go to another library.

But back to reason number one. Have you ever been to Salt Lake City’s Main Library? The big curvy architecturally-pleasing building on Fourth South? It’s magnificent and beautiful and full to the brim with people who never were taught how to use their Inside Voices. And ever since the advent of the internet, every computer terminal is clogged with vagrants and bored teenagers surfing the web, day trading and playing Hearts with people in Sweden.

And (and this is where people will get mad) if I’m there to research something important, like how a helicopter works, or what really happens if you give a mouse a cookie, I don’t want to be invaded by dozens of kids whose parents seem to think that a few hours running around the library will make their kids love books more than they love Halo 2.

Now granted, I love kids – I even have a couple myself – and my daughter loves books, and my son loves chewing on books. But I never have made the mistake that the library is the babysitter or the amusement park or the torment-Rob-while-he’s-reading-about-mice-and-cookies place. It’s a library, people. We go there to read, not socialize. If you need a place to gab, come to the movie theater and sit behind me.

My library philosophy is ultimately a pragmatic one. I’m there to read and study. If you’re not there to read and study, then go somewhere else. Actually, don’t bother getting up, because this library didn’t have what I was looking for anyway – what with the big lack of books and all.

What it all boils down to is that I love me some books. I love having the wisdom of the ancients at my fingertips; tomes of forgotten lore just waiting to be rediscovered. I love to sit and read and read and read. And I love to do it all in silence, surrounded by quiet people – or, better yet, no one at all. This is the reason I dislike the public library.

So, in conclusion: I hate children, noisy people, teenagers, vagrants, and pretentious authors. (I also hate Mennonites and everyone named Steve.)

No, I don’t. The public library and I have come to an understanding: I don’t bother it, and it won’t bother me. I don’t check out its books, and it won’t give me late fees. And in the interest of full disclosure, I must report that every single time I break my side of the bargain, the library’s retribution is swift and merciless. Any day now, the library is going to send out a big Italian guy named Guido to break my kneecaps.

Crap. Now I’ve offended the Italians, too.


At 3/21/2006 11:13 AM, Blogger Sariah S. Wilson said...

Thanks for clearing up the library hatred. Understandable - and I'm with you on the great love for the college library and the not so much for the public one. I usually don't stay in the library longer than it takes me to pick up the books I put on reserve for that reason - it's a small little space with too many people. I've never once gone to my local library that it has been filled to the brim with people. While I should be glad that so many people love to read, I do have several Calvin and Hobbes moments where I wish they would just all go away so that I could have the place to myself.

At 3/21/2006 5:32 PM, Blogger Sweebler said...

This post made me laugh out loud. Thanks!

At 3/21/2006 6:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Utah libraries are filled and noisy. Maybe it's the overabundance of children in the general population. My first library experience was in another state--a huge, three story building that was about 100 years old. Rich wood floors. Wonderful winding stairways. Book smell everywhere. Oppresively quiet. I just know it was haunted. Often, my family would be the only ones there. I wonder if I'd grown up here in this well-described library chaos, if I would have come to love the library so well.

At 3/22/2006 3:15 PM, Blogger Mean Aunt said...

My library has online reserve and a drive-thru window.

Now that is library bliss!

At 3/31/2006 12:28 PM, Blogger annegb said...

and when you said crap, you offended the nation of south Africa. South Africa. I learned it on blogging.

At 1/30/2011 7:31 PM, Blogger LifeAsWeKnowIt said...

I just found this blog thanks to the hilarious writing of Kerry Blair, and I have decided to read it from the beginning. I laughed so hard at this post.
While my library here in Brigham City is usually quiet (especially in the reference section which is the most beautiful and quiet section of the library), I agree with every thing you have just said. Course, with the recent redesign of the library, the reference section now has more people and a chess table. So I add to your list (which might as well be my list as well) I also hate people who play chess. They can be surprisingly noisy people; especially if they aren't any good.


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