Can I Help My Library?

by Victoria C. Anderson

I remember a time before the cuts.

I remember that line on the Chicago Public Library’s webpage next to a book that said “Not Checked Out” – I remember when that meant something.

Yesterday, when I entered the library, nothing seemed amiss. The books were on their shelves, the librarians were quietly working behind their desks. My plan was to be in-and-out as quick as possible – I was supposed to be working, and had taken a detour while on some errands. I had a list of three books that I wanted, all written in my notebook, with call numbers, authors, all the pertinent information. The Folly of Fools by Robert Trivers, Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal, Moxyland by Lauren Beukes. All three were listed as “Not Checked Out” on the library website. I thought I was safe. I was wrong.

Yes. Yesterday I went to the Chicago Public Library and found none of the books I was looking for, despite the fact that the website told me that they would be there. I mean, come on. The internet said so. And yet they weren’t there.

The librarian behind the desk was sorting books when I arrived at her workstation, and she didn’t pause in the slightest to answer my question.

“Those books were checked in just this month, and we’re just now beginning to sort the books that were turned in on February first.” I’m guessing that’s not for lack of trying. So there you have it: the library is nearly a full month behind on shelving books.

But when did this happen? I will admit that I hadn’t been to the library in a while – a little over six months, to be honest. I got a nook sometime last year, and I had been using it for less than savory purposes, to be perfectly honest. I will admit that this thought crossed my mind: I don’t pay for books at the library, why should I pay for them online?

I’d never been in the habit for paying for most of the books I read. I read a lot; at least a book a week, and sometimes more. If I paid for all of them, it would be a very expensive habit, definitely too expensive of a habit for a middle school, high school or college student. Now, graduated, I find myself with a job, yes, but also student loans whose monthly payment is actually higher than my rent. Still not much money for books. And there’s no way I’m giving up books.

So I admit that I did some things that I’m less than proud of, especially as an aspiring novelist. Chuck Wendig changed my mind with this post. You should definitely read it. So anyway, non-new-years-resolution: No More Book Pirating. And back to the library. And actually buying the books that I really like.

Only it’s a little hard to stick to, when I can’t get the books on my list from the library, thanks, I think, to the recent budget cuts to the Chicago libraries. And I feel awful over not getting worked up about them when they happened. I guess I’ll have to get used to waiting, and go in with a longer list next time.

And, thanks to a friend’s recommendation (he’s got more faith in government than I do) I’ll be writing to my Alderman. It’s the least I can do.