On Saturday, our family strolled down to take part in the re-opening of San Jose’s Pearl Avenue Branch library. Since 2005, we’d effectively been library orphans. It’s been hard on me, because I am quite the library rat. When it first closed, the nearest branch was the Vineland library, one of the first new (or revamped) library buildings. At the time, the three branch libraries around it were closed, so it was rather oversubscribed, but for a time, it had a great Mother Goose (24 months and under) storytime. And it wasn’t all so bad: at the time, I wasn’t homeschooling so I didn’t have the gargantuan book need of homeschoolers, and I made a fellow library rat friend.
At the time that Neil’s fourth grade teacher was failing him, and Kelly’s book obsession had me checking out every preschool storytime within a 20-mile radius, the Cambrian library re-opened. I still like its 2-story design (complete with a reading room with armchairs and a fireplace) the best (plus Mary the librarian was a great storyteller), and we were there on a once-a-week-at-least basis until I freaked out about rising gas prices, and obsessed about every single trip. Then I reverted to going to the Edenvale Branch library, which was slightly closer (by a mile) and the Main library, which was convenient to Peter’s downtown office. My librarian friend Michael had warned me that the Edenvale branch was frighteningly slammed, but it was functional enough: the only consequence of the traffic it got was the fact that it could take more than 24 hours to check in any books I’d returned. The downtown library is like downtown in many ways: it has all you could want, but it’s also intimidatingly large, and populated with some less-than-savory people. Plus, it could be hard dragging 15 books there via light rail
So to have a library once again within walking distance thrilled me more than I can explain. Clearly, I was not alone in this on opening day. I was happy we’d walked to the Pearl Branch library, because by the time we arrived, the parking lot was already full, not only with cars, but with future patrons. The nearby strip mall was quickly filling as other library rats arrived. You know, we library rats aren’t an obvious sub-group: we’re quiet, shy, and you might only recognize us in our glee at finding books we want. But after a year or so, we can recognize one another, enough to speak and befriend. And here, we were out in force. In fact, it was a little too much for my family (especially since the library was still closed while taiko drummers performed and bureaucrats had to make their speeches), so we walked down to 7-11 to get some drinks.
When we returned, the library rats had stormed the library, and it was nearly impassable. Neil and Kelly managed to get some opening celebration cake and I recognized some neighbors, including Sam, who goes to the library every day; and Matthew, a friend of Neil’s. But the line to even check out materials was a 30 minute wait, and even I couldn’t endure that. I left the library with great regret, looking at some Russian movies. I knew, in my heart, that some of the things leaving the library this morning, would never return. The glory of a brand-new library branch is seeing (and better yet, borrowing) books and movies which will, at best, only sit on a shelf again for minutes until another hand grabs them. At worst, the same books will be warped, marked, and worst of all, lost for good, before someone less determined than me has a chance to enjoy them. Right now, Neil has to do a report on Egypt’s Old Kingdom, and he decided to focus on the pyramids. I checked out David Macauley’s Pyramid for him, but when Neil read it, he pointed out to me that some genius had written (in ink) an obscenity (f**k you) on one of the pages. Who does that sort of thing? Who thinks, I will deface city property, appall 10-year-olds, and feel better about myself becaus of it? What is the point? Worse, there’s been many a time I’ve requested books through the library’s interloan system, only to find out, time after time, that the materials have gone missing. There is a alarm that goes off if someone walks through with a book that hasn’t been checked out, but the librarians aren’t book Nazis, and in reflection, I prefer we-want-you-to-have-books librarians over book Nazis, but I wish I could get more of the books I want, because, frankly, some people just suck and keep or damage library stuff.
But I digress. I went back to the library on Wednesday, and was overjoyed with getting bright, new, shiny books I wanted. I went back on Friday to get Kelly more easy easy readers she can read like Pig Wig, and (gasp) untorn copies of Captain Underpants books she loves. I returned today (by bike, hurray!) to pick up a few more requested books that had come in for me. The fact that I can go to my library every day, if I wish, without either burning gas or spending hours getting there delights me greatly. So I’m happy my library branch is back, and I will continue to be happy even when many of the bright shiny books have been dulled or disappeared.