September 2007

Hooked on books

By Suzanne Strazza

I am the librarian who has lost library privileges.

Due to my easy access to the wonders of the Mancos Public Library and all that it has to offer, I have checked out everything from Crockpot Cookbooks to Castle-Constructing videos to Chicka Chicka Boom Boom (a beloved board book from the days of toddlerhood).

Each day, as I return books, tapes, CDs and videos to their rightful places on the shelves I am exposed to titles that spark my interest, inspiring me to bring them home for further investigation and exploration. I find politics for Tom, dragon tales for the boys and parenting, cooking and fluff for me. I bring home more books than I shelve. My card is constantly maxed out, as are my children’s. There are stacks of borrowed items all over the house – kitchen, living room, bathroom, my car.

And this is where I run into trouble.

Somehow or another, even though I am at the library multiple times a week, I find it very difficult to return things on time. Believe me, I have the very best intentions, but somehow, getting a book from the bedside table into the car and then into the drop box is a bit too much for me.

And usually, somewhere along that path, the item either regains my interest, gets a huge muddy footprint on its cover, or vanishes.

Some people ponder the mysteries of a single sock disappearing. For me, it’s library books.

I am meticulous in so many other areas of my life. I am anal about being on time (as many of my irritated, less uptight friends will attest to). When I have no children or husband in the house, it is immaculate and organized. My files are in order, as I have not one but two filing cabinets. And, I am a list-keeper-checker-off-er. Every morning I chart what I will do for the day (including returning library books) and have a brief moment of satisfaction as each item gets crossed out

So then, why the hell am I such a mess about returning library books?

Is there some deep-rooted childhood trauma that plagues me, preventing me from functioning properly in the world of public library? Did I burn that part of my brain out during my “experimental” years? Has motherhood just taken its toll?

There really is no logical answer.

In the past year, I have lost (and paid to replace) three books on tape, plus two books – and that is just here in Mancos. I have an outstanding fine of $16 at one library and need to replace a Nutcracker Ballet video at another. I have ILL’s (interlibrary loans) strewn across my coffee table which are missing the little tags that remind me when they are due back.

My name is mud.

Sometimes, I check things out under Tom’s name or one of the kids’, but Tom received a phone call the other day about an overdue and a lost book and I began to feel guilty about ruining his library credit.

Good god, if they checked your credit report before they let you have a card, I would be unmortgageable.

My boys, of course, have been dragged into this. My expectation is that if I bring a book or a tape home for them, they will somehow manage to keep track of it – since I have set such a fine example. Then, when a cover is torn off or a tome vanishes into the fray, I of course lecture them on responsibility for public property.

All of this led to my recent, traumatic, baffling and humiliating experience with “Midnight for Charlie Bones,” a kid’s book on tape. I brought it home three months ago for the boys’ listening pleasure. It disappeared off our radar about 30 minutes after I brought it home and was never even begun. As I went to work and it repeatedly appeared as overdue on my card, I just kept renewing it, having absolute faith that we would find it at some point. Two months into the ordeal, while cleaning Bowen’s room, we found all of the tapes and even the box that houses them. Within five more minutes, I had an empty box and the tapes were again…GONE.

Go Figure.

Another month was spent looking high and low, but to no avail. At staff meetings, one of the other librarians would bring up “the problem of the Charlie Bones tape.” and I would vow once again to find the damn tapes.

Finally, this week, I threw out the empty box and submitted, “OK, I give up, I’ll buy a new one.” Then I added, “And we won’t check out anything else for a while.”

The next morning, while searching through Bowen’s underwear drawer for two matching socks, we found the tapes! Perhaps if the drawer had been opened during the summer, they would have been discovered sooner.

Which, brings up another issue:

I don’t know which is worse – to be the librarian who loses books and privileges, or to know that my child hasn’t worn underwear in three months!

Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.