books on bookshelf

What’s a library lover to do in the midst of a pandemic that’s shut them all down?

As of this writing, my library account looks like this: 18 holds, 15 items checked out, 0 monies owed.

The last one is partly due to Pikes Peak Library District going fine-free last year. (Thanks, gang.) But I’ve also paid off my other fines, as in destruction of materials fines. No, I’m not burning books, but I can be a little careless at times in my custody of library materials, which I tend to cart around with me on the passenger seat of my car. Is it really my fault when a storm sneaks up and blasts through my open car windows? Or a water bottle goes rogue and leaks all over the pristine pages? Oh, it is, you say? Well, I always pay for my negligence, and I’d like to think all of my financial contributions have purchased a nice series of periodicals, or a New York Times bestseller or 10, or maybe some microfiche over the years.

Also, I’ve been driving around for at least two years with an audiobook CD stuck in the CD player. Oh yes, I was forced to purchase that entire book many moons ago when my account was flagged and I could no longer check out books. But that only came after three or four instances when different kindly librarians pushed my due date back three weeks every time I slunk up to the desk and regaled them with my plight. Finally, they could take no more. I harbor no resentment. I can be a procrastinator when it comes to things like, well, most things. But it was worth every penny of that book’s $35 cover price to continue using the library. And someday I’ll either get the CD player fixed or buy a new car.

Friends, this is the longest I’ve ever gone without visiting the library. And frankly, it’s beginning to wear on me. Two weeks ago I emailed Kayah Swanson, PPLD’s director of public relations and marketing, and asked her if there was any word on reopening. (There was not.) I tried not to sound whiny and told her I looked forward to visiting all the books again soon.

But I do count myself as one of the lucky ones — the lucky book hoarders. As everything began to shut down in the coronavirus crisis, some immediately thought about stocking toilet paper. My first thought: Do I have enough books at home? And, I suppose, I could have used the pages as toilet paper, but that surely would increase my financial contributions to the library. And I wouldn’t want to explain all that to a librarian. Fortunately, I’ve had plenty of TP and reading material.

When I encounter people who never visit the library or even have a library card, I’m truly up in arms. How can you not take advantage of this free service? I can’t even fathom. That’s why it’s been a feat of mental fortitude to soldier on through these eight weeks without my guidepost. When libraries reopen, I’ll be first in line to surrender the delicious books that comforted me during this time and to pick up the four holds I have waiting.

The library has been my old friend for decades and I fully expect it will remain as such until I check out my very last book at age 100. You can imagine the joy I felt when The Gazette moved its digs downtown, right across the street from the hallowed halls of Penrose Library. I visit at least once, if not twice, a week, often during an afternoon break, and return bearing an armload of books, magazines and DVDs. Some I’ll read, some I’ll peruse, some I’ll return without even cracking open.

I feel comforted this magnificent system exists. Sometimes, though, I get nervous our good fortune will be snatched away from us for some reason. And I’ll have to tell the next generations how once upon a time there were these institutions where you could get almost every book imaginable for free and cram your brain full of knowledge. I certainly hope that doesn’t happen. Until then, if you need me, I’ll be at the ‘brary.

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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