Why am I so nervous about this? I’ve done it hundreds of times. Perhaps it’s because it’s a public place in a pandemic. Maybe it’s because I’ve never used this particular branch before. Or the thought of all the people having touched this book ahead of me, leaving God knows what germs on it. I would’ve never made it through my years of higher education, let alone fatherhood, without having gone to the library. This is the first time I’ve used this one and I’m not sure what I’m looking for. My Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge is complete but for one last category—a book checked out of the library. So here I am, mask on face, standing fretfully outside the public library. Nervously I note that it’s story hour. My wife assured me libraries are never crowded. Taking a deep breath, I go in.
The library is a fine institution. A marker of civilization. Perhaps I’m afraid of having to take care of somebody else’s book for three weeks. Maybe it’s because I’m an embarrassingly slow reader and these books all look so big to me. I’ve fallen into the habit of buying (generally used) the books I need. We’ve donated quite a few to the little free library across the way, passing it forward, as they say. Still, it is good to be in here with all of these books. Even though pangs of guilt come, knowing that the yard requires attention. And I’ve gotta get that squirrel out of the garage. But there’s now a book in my hand. I can go someplace else.
I can’t image a world without books. A world like Star Wars where nobody reads and everyone lives in a Campbellian fantasy where good overcomes evil. Our world is more Republican than that. It would be a better place if people read more. Maybe let the grass go just a little bit longer. It’s not going to be the end of the world. Reading may give crucial insights. It may even help you to be a better person. Stepping out into the autumn air I have a book in my hand. It’s one I’ve never heard of, but one that I’m excited to read. The library wasn’t crowded. The children were in a separate room. The leaves are changing and the breeze is fresh. There’s a lot to do, I know. But it is always worth the time to read a book.