Those of you born in the 90's may not remember the days before Internet. In fact, those in my age group probably remember very little about navigating through life without the help of the worldwide web. But do you remember when you wanted to go to the movies, and you searched eagerly through the newspaper for that days theater listing? Do you remember when you had to call 411 to find the phone number you wanted (because the yellow pages took forever), so that you could find out whether the Wherehouse or Blockbuster had the movie you wanted to rent, or the tape/CD you so badly wanted to hear? When you had to read a newspaper to find out what critics were saying about a new book? What a thrill when the Wherehouse started allowing us to preview newly released CD's, so that we could hear a snippet of the new Nirvana, or No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom... or Amy Grant's House of Love if you were into it, which I wasn't, but if I had been, I could listen before i bought it. I didn't even have a cell phone until spring of my senior year... and those cell phones didn't have internet, even though the internet was robust by that point. It's incredible the trials we suffer.
These are all trifling inconveniences which anyone older than me will roll their eyes at. But I remember these days clearly, because it was during that time that I basically lived in the library. I did. As I mentioned in my first blog, I learned to read when I was pretty little. My parents were avid readers, and had books everywhere. Books were my favorite things. My favorite Christmas present from my adolescence was a bookshelf that my parents bought and had custom painted for me. Am I painting a clear picture? I was really really cool, okay? ... I was. Don't ask anyone.
When I was quite young (I think six...teen years old) I participated in Pizza Hut's "Book It!" club, where you read a certain number of books within a week and were given a free personal pan pizza. Some of you may remember this. Ah-mazing. (That's the way to grow up smart, fat, and alone!) These memories came back to me this afternoon, because I got my library card for the Shasta County Public Library system.
It was nothing other than unbridled Parker Posied excitement that overtook me as I wandered slowly through the aisles, my path lit by floor to ceiling windows that exposed the dust in the air swirling together with the natural light like a metaphor of revelation upon revelation: beautiful dust from the old metal shelves housing thousands upon thousands of volumes that somehow all have the same smell when you open them (I can hear some of you: "Oh you diiiiid?? Oh, you opened thousands of books today?" No, I didn't open every single book, shut up and go with my hyperbolic imagery, I'm being poetic right now). I hope you've had the privilege and opportunity to know that smell, because there is nothing like it. It's kind of like the smell of your grandmother's kitchen pantries. Did your grandmothers have pantries? Mine did. You peek in, knowing what you hope to find, and no matter what delicious treats she had stockpiled, everything smelled like gingersnaps and strawberry fig newtons. These library shelves, filled with books which I had never seen before, were like old friends nevertheless. A home away from home.
I will say is that some of the best government dollars spent are spent supporting free public libraries. Truly. Before we had a wealth of informational snacks at our fingertips via Google and Wikipedia and CosmoGirl, we had the whole world stuffed into an old building, staffed by the cranky old lady with Christmas ornaments for jewelry (she is everywhere) and the middle aged guy with the pony tail who looks like Robert Plant wearing your moms glasses. These people, along with the funds of public and private donors, labor quietly to bring the world to us, under the buzz of fluorescent lighting and amid the animated (if we're lucky) voices of the volunteers who come to read aloud for story hour.
It took me 5 minutes to establish my free membership, and then I was off. I picked up a few reads for the next two weeks, including The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller, and The Revenge of Geography by Robert Kaplan. Twenty cents per day per book covers late charges, in case you're a slow reader like me. (Yes, being a slow reading bookworm is, for me, like being a tone-deaf Broadway enthusiast like Rosie O'Donnell. Or Russell Crowe. Just a shame.) Free access to all the books, magazines, scholarly sources (for students), movies, and CDs that they have in the building... FREE. I like free things. Everyone likes free things. And don't worry, I asked her about my personal pan pizzas, she said she doesn't know but she will check.