ADHD / ADHD and Kids / Adult ADHD / Coping Strategies

ADHD and the tragedy of libraries.

I love the idea of libraries. I also love the idea of helping people learn to find and evaluate information. I love critical thinking and I love learning and I love information access for all. I love all of these things so much that I have an MLIS (Master’s in Library and Information Science). But I have a very dysfunctional relationship with libraries.

Years ago, when I lived in California, I had a volume of short stories by Eudora Welty that I forgot to return. This wasn’t the first of the books in my life that I’d racked up late fees on – I’m sure I paid enough in library late fees, in the first 25 years of my life that I could probably fly around the globe several times. I’m pretty sure I had that book for over two years though – and I was embarrassed that I’d kept it for so long. And I’m absolutely pulling the ADHD card on this one. It was pre-diagnosis, and this was back when my car truck contained three years worth of layers, garbage, ephemera, and actually useful items, packed like a dense cake.

When I finally went back to return the book – the lady at the counter looked at me like I was a criminal. At least in my mind, I felt that she did. Okay fine, my guilty conscience has totally warped this memory. I have no idea what her face looked like. But I had to get real about my relationship with libraries. I was wasting money and I was depriving my community of these books that I delinquently returned. It wasn’t really fair for me to continue to interact with a public resource in this way. So I swore off library loans. I would never set foot into a library again with the intention of checking out a book. I was limited to whatever services I could utilize as a visitor, and within the time of my visit, and that’s IT. Even when I was in Library School working on my degree, I never checked out books – I loved the online resources, actually.

But then, a dozen years later, I acquired stepchildren, and children need books, and children need libraries, and darnit, we don’t have enough money to just buy everything they want to read. My husband’s dysfunctional relationship with the local library (and fines) had been preventing us from using the library and of course – I don’t borrow books. Because I can’t be trusted as a borrower. Well one day during summer vacation, I decided that in my post-diagnosis life, I should be able to check out library books for my children.

We went to the library, we picked out books, we brought them home, and I made sure to check with the kids to make sure they were done with them, and I had them pile them ALL up by the front door, as a visual reminder to make sure they were returned.

Well that was summer and this is uh…winter I guess, and those books are still sitting there. Every time I walk past them, I think “oh shit, I need to take those back and every time, I keep walking and then I see them again and I think “THIS IS EUDORA WELTY ALL OVER AGAIN, GODDAMMIT, EUDORA WELTY”.

Those books need to get returned. I’ve gotten the email reminders. I’ve gotten the written reminder. I’ve gotten the big, nasty bill from the city reminder. I’ve gotten the “YOU WILL BURN IN HELL FOR ALL ETERNITY IF YOUDO NOT RETURN THESE BOOKS” reminder. I’ve gotten the reminders.

And I will get those books returned THIS WEEK, IF IT KILLS ME.

And we will never, EVER, borrow books from the library again.

I can’t help wondering if this is one of those things that the kids will put in their memoirs. You know, the one entitled “Forgotten Child: My life with self-centered ADHD parents”. The one where they describe how all they ever really wanted in life was to go to the library each week to borrow books, books that would feed their young, hungry minds, and foster a lifelong love of literature…books that would allow them to escape the horrors of a life that left them perpetually at the seeming whims of parents who just couldn’t commit to a healthy relationship with a library”…you know the one I’m talking about. Or the therapy sessions at age 26 where they talk about their parents and how they can’t decide if they can forgive their parents for exhibiting the traits of a neurobiological disorder, because they suspect that we were just raging narcissists all along, you know, those therapy sessions.

I’m just going to have to take that chance that my children might think I’m a raging narcissist. Or just a mild fruitcake. I cannot ever, ever borrow a library book again. Ever. It’s better for the community at large that way.


12 thoughts on “ADHD and the tragedy of libraries.

  1. In 2005, my husband and I decided to get a dog, specifically, a border collie. I can’t commit to anything without first doing exhaustive, often excessive research. I borrowed ten border-collie/dog adoption books from the library. Read the books. Adopted the dog. The books sat in the dining room for over three years. In late 2008, like a criminal, I sneaked over to the library late one night and deposited the books in the depository slot from outside.

    Eventually, I, too, wanted to use the library and borrow books for the kid I tutor. Crap. I couldn’t even find my replacement library card (I had lost the original long ago). In 2010, I eventually found both library cards. I didn’t know which was which.

    The kid I tutor also has ADHD. She lives at the library because, well, a lot of reasons. She can’t borrow anything because at last count, she has lost two DVDs and three books. I wanted to make a point that it’s good to redeem oneself (eventually) in these situations, so I made sure the kid was with me when I finally went to confess my sins to the librarian. I also had him figure out which one of my library cards was the current one. This was spring 2013. Settling my debt for the books borrowed in 2005. I paid my fine, plus some extra as a donation to the library.

    I felt free. I felt stupid. I haven’t been back to the library since.

    • Clearly, I totally relate to this 🙂 I love that you wanted to model “doing the right thing” for your student! What a great idea.

      And that exhaustive research thing? OMG ARE WE THE SAME PERSON? I am that person. I do all of the research. ALL OF IT. All of it that is humanly possible, before I make any decision about anything in life. As a result, I know a lot of things, and I bet you do too.

  2. Oh my god. This is completely my relationship with the library. I recently started looking more closely at my budget and realized that I’ve been spending entirely too much money purchasing books from Amazon, Audible, etc. I decided that once again, I needed to utilize my local library. So…I went one afternoon and picked out three books. I thought this was manageable. I went to check out and was told that I had an outstanding fine of $35. Naturally they only take cash, and I had $20 — not enough. I also needed to renew my library card, but of course I couldn’t do so until I paid my fines. The woman at the check-out desk was helpful and said she’d be happy to hold my books if I wanted to run to the ATM. I hesitated but then told her that yes, that would be helpful, and I left. I had an internal debate wondering if I could really handle the responsibility of checking out library books. I decided that yes, I could. My ADHD is under control; I’m medicated, and I’ve had extensive coaching and therapy. I reminded myself of all of this as I drove to the ATM. On my drive over, I realized that it was getting close to time to pick up my kids from school. There was no way I would have time to go to the ATM and back the library. I’d be late. So…I drove straight to their school, ordered the books I needed on Amazon while I was in the pickup line (grand total for used books and shipping – $26.37) and I haven’t been back to the library since. And….this is only one of my many library failure stories. Half of my kids’ book collection includes library books that we’ve lost, paid for, and found later under the couch, the playhouse, the trunk of the car, you name it.

  3. Uh… I may or may not have four library books I borrowed in, like, October of 2012, sitting under my desk. I keep meaning to return them. But I think they have already charged me for the books, and that fine went to collections, but I can’t find the collections bill to pay it and I’m not quite sure what to do with the books.. so… yeah. Don’t feel bad.

  4. borrowing issues? what about loosing all sense of time for hours checking out the fiction books IN THE DAY BEFORE your final exams? I had to avoid the university’s library like gamblers should avoid jackpot machines and be thankful for not having internet connection at home (it was 15 years ago)

  5. Old post I know, but I felt compelled to comment..

    Last week I returned 3 books to the state library service, borrowed them JULY 2006.. the librarian was in shock and awe.. needless to say I denied my child the opportunity to become a member and asked to be deregistered myself! 🙂

    • Ohhhhhhhhhhhh I understand this soooooo clearly 🙂 I have also basically denied my children the right to use the library, because I won’t let my household abuse the public trust again like that, LOL.

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