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.