Thursday, May 28, 2015


Several months ago I wrote my heartfelt tribute to the United States Post Office—I love receiving mail. Always have, ever since my schoolgirl days when Silver Screen arrived monthly in my rural mailbox.

Even before I fell in love with the Post Office (it will always be capitalized in my mind)—even before that love affair began, I had experienced the euphoric, dizzying, walking-on-air effects of Discovering Books. I actually discovered them in first grade; no early reading at our house, nossir, we had things to do, work to get done, no fooling around with books. A bedtime Bible story was it.

So my love of books waited for me to get to first grade at Clearspring School in Coles County, Illinois, the one-room school I’ve written about here before. If a new reader can devour books, then that’s what I did. I read everything the school had—first grade, second grade, part of the third grade shelf. The only reason I quit reading the third grade tomes was that school was out—summer vacation came—I had no school to go to. (I’ve never learned to love summer vacation time.)
The love of books, however, never waned. Next I went to a town school and lo and behold! They had even more books! Joy of joys!

Plus! (This just gets better and better.) Plus—there was a library in my town, and third graders could go and get a library card. I could take out two books at a time. Since I lived a long way from the library, I read one book on the way home, and the other one the next morning. Then I walked back to the library, returned the two I’d read, and got two more. Rapture, indeed.

Over the years I’ve learned that the library is beneficial to my health. As I approach the building, my heart beats steadily, my breath quietens. A feeling of peace comes over me.

However, no longer do I feel peace. Here’s my current dilemma—no, it’s more than a dilemma. It’s a trauma. A nightmare. An outrage.
The small town I live in has a wonderful library—building renovated in the late 1990s and now wonderfully up to date with electronic media, e-books for “borrowing,” and many CDs, DVDs, and tapes. I’ve spent many, many happy hours there, browsing, sampling, tasting.

Then they went and done it.
They completely renovated the fiction section—located on the upper floor—by reshelving all books by author. Alphabetically, thanks be. But still. . . . Whereas I used to head for the mystery section, which filled two short walls floor to ceiling, now I have to tour the whole darned floor seeking the little green Mystery label. And if an author who writes mysteries also writes love stories or sci-fi or westerns, they’re all together, cheek by jowl.

The first time I visited and discovered what had happened, I was stunned. Felt as if I’d been hit on the head. Concussed. Shocked. I’ve not recovered yet, and it’s been months now.
Why did they do that? Well, here’s what I was told: “Library patrons wanted to be able to find all their favorite author’s books in one place.” Really? Was there a petition, a movement, a referendum to get that accomplished? If so, I never knew about it. Nobody asked me, suggested it to me, took my temperature on the subject. I never even thought such a thing. Who would want that, anyway? Well, obviously, somebody did.

I haven’t made many trips to the library since The Big Move. The new arrangement still strikes me as insane and impractical.

This could be, of course, due to my great advanced age and my tendency to think The Old Ways Were Best. Sometimes they are.
My biggest gripe is this: In order to find a book, I have to know who wrote it. That means research before I even go to the library to find the author of a book known to me only by the title. And my second gripe is the time it requires to traverse the whole second floor to “browse.”

I doubt my rant will have any effect at all upon the Powers That Be in the library. Maybe it’s an innovation dreamed up by the state library system. Stranger things have happened.
If I live long enough, I hope to see the library in my town returned to a sensible shelving system—genre fiction is widespread in publishing; why not let the genres have their places on the shelves as a group? The mainstream—which is the rest of the fiction not known as genre—was formerly in the low shelves that crisscrossed the center of the room, with an aisle between two banks of shelves. All very sensible and easy to use. Is that too much to ask?

There’s a possibility that I’m reacting to change—after all, many folks don’t like change. I see it all the time—churches have continual tension between the ones who want to change this or that and the ones who say it was good enough for grandpa. Schools introduce change nearly every year—orders from on high, so you can’t blame the teachers, principal, or superintendent of the local schools—and now kids go to school year-round, with 2-week breaks here and there throughout the year. You should’ve heard the hue and cry about that one. (Oh, you have?)
But the point about change is this: Why make changes just for the sake of changing? The common phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” is more than a cute saying—it’s a reminder that not everything needs to be “fixed.”

Maybe I’m not looking at the silver lining—after all, I can check out umpteen books at the library if I want to; there’s no limit that I know of. I still have them for two weeks. It’s still free except for late fees. And they still have a lot of current books as well as classics, and CDs, and DVDs. Definitely a silver lining.
But that dratted dark cloud. . . .


1 comment:

  1. Is this all because I said you were showing Pollyanna tendencies? :-) As I already said in an email, I like the new arrangements, but it has become a moot point with me. Our library now charges $75 per person per year to use its lending services (county board and library feuding--no one blinking), so I don't even go.