It’s one of those life-defining moments, one that you know is coming and you think you’re prepared for, but hits you like lightning all the same. It’s the moment when, for the first time in years, you see the long lost love of your life – your first love, long after you lost it.
It happened to me today, and it was exactly how you’d expect it – the awkward tension, both of you knowing it’s been so long and so much has passed, that flash of irrational guilt, knowing that they know they’ve been replaced, and that a newer, fancier model has taken the place they once held in your heart. And then there’s that other moment. There’s the moment when you feel that spark, and you realise that feeling might still be there…
I’m not talking about a person! I mean, really, my husband reads this…or at least he claims he does. No, I’m talking about the other first love…the library. (So I’m a geek. Did my three posts on The Hunger Games not give that away?)
Yes, today, for the first time in enough years to be ashamed of, I set foot in a public library. I found out that my town actually has a public library. I went to the library, and I liked it.
I was there to collect my 24 copies of Stephen King’s Misery for World Book Night (and we’ll skip on by the awkward moment when none of the librarians seemed to know what that is). While I waited, I looked around me at the endless rows of books, and absorbed that unmistakable library smell – you know that library smell - and I suddenly wondered what I’ve been doing all this time. I suddenly wondered why I don’t come here every week.
There was a time when I loved nothing more than heading down to the library and spending hours just looking at the books. It was around the time when in my humble opinion the greatest injustice of civil society was that they would only let me take out a maximum of ten books at a time (and even then it was only with the adult library card – juniors were stuck with six. Six!)
Though it may shame me, I will admit it now – I was seduced. First it was the shiny big stores with their clean, white lights, entire sections dedicated to individual genres and not just rows of books but floors full of books with smooth new covers. Then the stores fell away, their sparkle diminished by the bright light of a new love – the Kindle. All sleek and stylish, it turned my head with its multiple book capacity and buy-with-one-click convenience.
What of the humble library? Is there room for more than one love in my lift? I think it’s time to find out. I want it all back – the odd, forced hush, the cute little ping when the books are scanned out, the plastic book covers – all of it. Even the smell. Especially the smell.
So I’m taking it back. I’m going right back down to that library and I’m going to register and I’m going to get myself a library card. They still have library cards, right?