19 February 2010
The central library was refurbished before Christmas. It meant moving science fiction to the very back of the building to make more room for coffee-table books on cookery, snaking the main fiction round itself so that A and B are next to S and R, and replacing the issue desk with a battery of self-scan machines.
Yes, they’ve let the council keep the library open, and yes, I worked for so long on a shop counter that it’s probably quicker for me to do the damn scanning myself. But self-scans in the library transgress a line. My first librarians were called things like Joyce and Janice, the first people outside the family to validate my belief that reading books was the best thing you could possibly do in time.
That’s not even counting the first thing that’s wrong with the self-scanners, that is, what we shouldn’t invent machines that take away ninety per cent of the jobs unless or until we can bring ourselves not to have ninety per cent of the children.
The only saving grace of the library ones: they don’t say unexpected item in the bagging area. The only other saving grace: without a librarian wondering why on earth I want to borrow that, I can finally check out the dreadful thing. I don’t want to read it, but I can’t be rude about the dreadful thing until I do, and I refuse to actually spend money on it.
I still tuck the dreadful thing under a novel about a conquistador who becomes interpreter to the Aztec emperor. I’m the wrong generation for the dreadful thing. We could be flighty teenagers, but we never put up pictures of misogynistic unwashed vampires in our common rooms.
I haven’t got my card, I realise when I put my books down on the silver circle. I’m going to have to take the dreadful thing to the only librarian on duty after all (there used to be three people getting paid, when they had the desk), and look like one of those useless people who forgets their card, to boot.
I should have paid money for the dreadful thing after all, I perversely decide as soon as I take it home. Attacking its repetitions with my four-colour pen would be much more fun than trying to read it properly.