Typically when I go to my local library I head right for the check-out desk and simply pick up the items I've requested on hold. I will sometimes browse around, but not often.
But this weekend I went to my library in the company of Mr. CR, who wanted to look around first. So I said okay, and went downstairs to pick up the most recent issue of Esquire that I could get (hello, Clive Owen!). While I was there, I wandered through the nonfiction travel section and looked at books on Scotland and England. I then popped back upstairs and considered the CD collection for a while, thinking I should learn something about classical music and selecting a Chopin CD, but then changing my mind and taking the soundtrack for The Motorcycle Diaries, which I'd heard before and liked. I headed over to the DVD shelves to see if Mr. CR was ready (he wasn't; he was considering whether it was a sign from fate that the first DVD of the first season of Deadwood was in, and that he should start watching the series).
Fine, I said, and headed over to New Fiction and New Nonfiction just to browse. As I was running my hand over the new book spines (I always do this around books; for the most part when shopping I don't touch a thing, but I am the original Miss Touchy-Feely when it comes to books*), something occurred to me out of nowhere:
Libraries are really pretty great, aren't they? They're entire buildings housing books, CDs, magazines, movies, and tons of other things, all just sitting around waiting for me to borrow and use them--for free. It's unbelievable, really. What an idea. Let's all share some stuff. How on earth did that ever get started? I mean, really, it's stunning. We can't really figure out public education, we spend too much on war, and health care is a mess, but in libraries we really get the idea of "share and share alike" right.
It took my breath away, to be honest with you. It's so sad that I didn't have that feeling anymore for the last several years that I worked in a library. How typical. I couldn't really appreciate the library until I stepped out of it. Although I sometimes miss the library, I'm so glad I quit, so I could have that feeling again.
*Speaking of books as objects, check out the neat list at Reader's Advisor Online of books about book covers! Super cool.