Opinion » The Rant

The Weresquirrel’s Concubine

Paper, mold, dust, and the reference librarian who still wears Wind Song.

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I'm cheating on my library.

We had a little tiff. That's not exactly why I'm cheating, but let me tell you what that skank did to me. I checked out too many e-books. I'm a fast reader, and sometimes I think I haven't read a book, but it turns out I have. Sometimes I realize that I liked the book, so I finish it. Other times, I remember why I didn't remember it and give up.

I am also guilty of judging books by their covers. The synopsis sounds so good, and I get into the book and realize it was the best part. There were a couple of nights I checked out and returned several books in a row, and the e-brarian cut me off. I have to go cold turkey on my library e-books for a few days. I can get real books, I know, but the main reason I went to e-books is that I like to read before I go to sleep, and if I accidentally fall asleep and bash my husband in the head with virtual War and Peace, it's a lot less painful that bashing him in the head with the hardback version. I'm kidding, obviously. Why would I read the classics when there are so many new cross-genre gems like The Weresquirrel's Concubine?

I have to be in Collierville some, and the library there is good for hanging out, but I'm a city girl. Not that I ever walk to the Central Library (I think about walking there, but I guess that's not the same thing). Anyway, one of my favorite places to sit in the Central location is up on the fourth floor, especially when it's rainy. It's not so much for the stellar view — I sit where I can overlook East High School and the scrubby little strips of cellphone stores and nail places on Poplar. I just think it's amazing there's this big building full of books that could answer any question a person could have. AND THEY'RE FREE! They just GIVE them to you.

When the weather is extremely hot or cold, there are a lot of scruffy men draped across the pleather chairs. They always seem to be eating Hot Fries. Back in April, I was up there on a rainy morning. Several men were sitting around complaining about wives and trading work stories. I turned out that two of the men had worked for the city during the sanitation strike, but didn't know each other. I tried not to act like a creep, but HISTORY! I had to listen in.

And that's why I love the library and Memphis. I can look out over a high school that looks like something out of a John Hughes movie while listening to people talk about being there the last night of Dr. Martin Luther King's life.

The library in Collierville has carpet that costs more than my house. I don't know how new the place is, but it doesn't smell like a library yet. You know the smell. Paper, mold, dust, the reference librarian who still wears Wind Song. This library smells like a hotel. But credit where credit's due, the outlet situation there is superb. There are many places to plug in one's computer. Of course, I usually seem to be the only person using a computer who doesn't belong to the library. The downside is I don't get to bond with a harried grad student when we make a deal to watch each other's stuff while we go to the restroom.

I think I could just leave my stuff on the table at the Collierville library if I need to go. I'm generally the youngest person there by at least 15 years. If the old guy behind me wearing seersucker shorts and suspenders tried to make off with my laptop, I could take him down. I don't want to brag or anything, but I could totally trip him with his own cane. And don't think I wouldn't do it. I have many important pictures of kittens cuddling with pandas downloaded on my laptop.

It's nice to be able to spread out. I might even take a snack. I find every task more enjoyable when snacks are involved. It's kind of lonely though. The people-watching situation is sub-par. The quiet is a real quiet. Not the quiet of kids just sprung from school and eager to check Facebook on library computers. It's not the quiet like when I try not to yell because they keep moving the 300s and 700s. And everyone smells nice. I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with that.

Susan Wilson also writes for yeahandanotherthing.com and likethedew.com.

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