It’s been about 6 months since our city shut down for the pandemic. Of course it’s all opened up again now, but not to any level of normal. Masks are required across the state, tables are spread apart inside restaurants, curbside service is offered everywhere…including the library.
When the library finally opened up again for browsing, I jumped on it immediately. I haven’t been inside a restaurant in half of a year, I can live without that risk indefinitely, but evidently I couldn’t live without walking the stacks of my library.
I have yet to come anywhere close to 6 feet of anyone at the library, mainly because no one lingers long in there now. People come and go very quickly because there’s absolutely no seating. I don’t know if I just hadn’t thought about that or if it was just so visually unsettling, but seeing my big library without desks and tables and chairs spread out for use made me so very sad.
I mean, obviously I understand why, I was not shocked at the decision. But it just changes the entire look and feel of the place and it was a stark reminder of how much things have changed. I probably went to work in the library at least once a week, more depending on any big projects I might have had going. I would go to bullet journal or to work on websites or to write. I had my favorite spots, mainly by the coffee desk where people could pay 1 dollar for a keurig and a styrofoam cup to use at the machine. I also loved driving all the way to the West side of town to hang out in one of the newer branches because there was great seating and tons of windows. That’s also the branch where I taught bullet journaling classes.
I miss normalcy around the library most of all. I don’t mind if we keep masks and 6-feet social distancing indefinitely, cancel large gatherings forever, and cut capacities in movie theaters by half permanently. But man…I want my library time back so bad. When I can escape to work in the library again, I’ll finally know things getting better. When I see the tables and chairs back between the shelves, that will be a sign we’ve made it to the other side of this thing, I think.
I have a funny library story about my particular downtown branch that I go to the most often.
In 1993, I was a Freshman at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. I had no car, but a series of boyfriends I’d make drive me places. I needed a library book on E. B. White for a project (I’m not sure if it was a biographical book or just a collection of his work) and so one of the boyfriends took me to the downtown library to check one out. The problem was, when it was due, that boyfriend was gone and I just kept forgetting about the book because I was too busy getting high and hacky-sacking.
Then…I got pregnant. And while I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with my future (I had lost my scholarship at UAH and was planning on moving to Florence and attending UNA in the fall instead) the library book seemed the least of my worries. So, when it was time to pack up my dorm and move out I don’t remember what I decided to do with it, but I know I didn’t care since I was leaving Huntsville and not coming back. Maybe I left it in the dorm and hoped someone else would take it back for me? I doubt it. I feel like Kim of 1994 would have thrown it away, hidden it at the bottom of a trash can in shame. But I’m not positive.
When I moved back to Huntsville in 2001 I had a different last name, having married E’s Dad before he was born. But, I still didn’t want to try to get a library card because I really assumed they’d somehow know and I’d owe like a million dollars. (I didn’t know understand Lost Book policies, evidently.) So I just avoided the library entirely until E started asking for a library card. By then I think my name had changed again because I had married Donnie so I felt okay applying for a card. AND I GOT ONE! NO PROBLEM! No one asked me about the E. B. White book and so I allowed myself to forget about it entirely.
One time I was walking by the stacks and saw this and it all came flashing back to me.
That books looks A LOT like the one I remember checking out but I have no idea if it is or not. Either way, seeing it on the shelf just cracked me up. Kim of 2001/2002 really stressed out about this book. Something that could have been avoided if Kim of 1993/94 would have just asked someone to drive her to the library to return it. But, much like Kim of 2020 – simple tasks were very overwhelming at times and easier to just worry about forever and avoid indefinitely.
Kim of 2018 had to pay for a “lost” book once at the library because her dog ate it and it turns out, it’s not that big of a deal. It happens all the time. I’ve never offered any sort of specific donation to replace the book from 20 years ago, I’m not sure how I would go about doing it, but I do support the library financially in enough ways that my conscious is clear. At least as clear as it can be for someone who grew up Catholic.
Let’s everyone stay masked now, so that maybe I’ll get some work time in the library again before the year is up.