I broke up with the library for good. It's really sad. Sometimes I remember the wonderful times we had together and I am tempted to call and try to get back together, but then I remember that I don't want to be that girl. A desperate woman who takes abuse and then keeps coming back for more. I simply refuse to wear the sign that says "kick me, I'm pathetic".
I owe the library $110. Not because I ruined the books and have to pay for them, and not because I lost them and never took them back. Because I good and used the library. I take all four of my children and we all check out books. We could read things on the computer and download them to our iPad (which we also do), but I wanted them to experience the community, the catalog, the alphabetization by author, the thrill of choosing from hundreds of paper books with bindings that smell like learning and bringing home something hand picked and special. I loved that stuff and I don't want my kids to be so digitalized that they don't know what it means to sit with a real book and read. So modern that they don't know what the library is. I check out real books for school too, we're a family and a school and there are so many resources right there at our fingertips. It's amazing. But when we leave the library we have a lot of books. If they are late it turns out that it adds up to a lot of dollars.
Now you should know, I am a pretty typical citizen. I pay my bills when they are due, I let drivers in when they need to change lanes, I take the empty grocery cart to the cart return, I show up on time for dental appointments. And I return my library books. However, I could never honestly tell you that I have done every one of these things flawlessly 100% of the time. I have certainly cussed at another driver and sped up, and I have occasionally left the cart piggy-backing the curb near my car. But for the most part these slip-ups, errors in judgement--these mistakes, result in a fitting consequence. A guilty twinge in my conscience, or a small late fee. I've had to call the dentist and eat crow--maybe even pay a reasonable fine. But the punishment for being a good citizen who has made a mistake usually fits the crime.
The library, however, seems to be out for blood. And they want you to feel like a second rate citizen. "We have things in place to help you be more responsible if you'd like". Okay, that's enough infuriating woman with the patronizing smile. The problem here is not that I am irresponsible and can't remember to be a grown up. The problem, LADY, is that I have more stuff to keep track of in 12 minutes than you have in three weeks--put together! I did my make-up while peeing and grading a spelling test this morning. Did you? When I got in the car to come here, I had my purse, like you probably did. Only I also tracked down all of the socks and shoes in the universe, 5 coats, a bunch of instruments, dance gear for two people, a couple of blankies, snacks for in between errands and appointments, and a few guys and cars in backpacks to keep the boys entertained. Oh and my patience. I tried to bring that, but the more we talk the more it's looking like I may have left it in my room under the covers. Actually, I think it went to the gym and is currently imagining your face while working the punching bag.
I called about my fines. I felt bad they were late, but $110? That just seems unreasonable. The punishment doesn't fit the crime. It seemed to me that we have one of two problems. They're either trying to get my money or they want to teach me lessons. If the library needs these fines to stay open, there seems to be a conflict of interest. They would want us to return books late. The later, the better. I was assured, just as I suspected, that the library is a non-profit organization funded by tax dollars. So it must be about making sure the books come back. You know, collateral of sorts. But in this case, why is there no flexibility once the books are returned? Why insist still that we cut deep into this weeks grocery budget? Are't we for the children? Are hungry children good readers? This, it turns out was the reason, but he attempted to comfort me in the knowledge that they would never charge more than the book is worth. They will still take it back, to be sure, and no doubt charge countless other irresponsible citizens for it's worth again and again. Yes, the fine is applied to assure that the book is returned, but as they don't need the funds, make no mistake, it sticks because of the lessons. I think they keep these ill-gotten gains in a jar and use them to throw parties for themselves celebrating how good they are at never forgetting anything. It just seems very librarian-y. Stereotypes come from somewhere, right?
I just can't guarantee that I will never forget my library due date. Just like I try really hard to remember the dentist, I make every effort to return books on time. I also mostly remember to pick my kids up from stuff and to feed them, but everything slips through the cracks sometimes. At this rate, I literally can't afford the risk of checking out books. Just like any investment, the risk can't outweigh the reward.
So it's sad, but in the end we had to go our separate ways. Eventually, I stopped using Blockbuster Video for the same reason. Oh, wait...EVERYONE stopped using Blockbuster Video for this reason. I asked the manager of the Library what he thought of the fact that the community has so much more access to material now with the internet and digital media. I asked him if he was worried that this type of rigid insistence on the letter of the law would, like Blockbuster, result in the eventual downfall of a beloved institution. Less kids growing up fondly remembering this time-honored American family tradition. Do you know what he said? He said, no. Because Blockbuster was a private company and unlike private business, the library is funded by tax dollars and can't fail. Well watch out Mr. Smarty Pants. The Postmaster General said the same thing.