I love the library...always have, always will; but I am not in good standing at our local library right now. I have a fine. This is not the first time, and it is not fine with me.
When I was growing up, the librarian at our elementary school trusted me implicitly. Her name was Ms. H., and she had the tiniest little pair of round, frameless glasses that she actually peered over and around in order to look at us. She loved to read scary stories aloud, and actually read stories that were so scary that some parents complained to the principal. It didn't seem to faze Ms. H. When she wasn't reading us horror stories, she sat at her big oak desk and read books to herself while whole classes of little kids roamed around her library unsupervised. The teachers, assuming Ms. H. was in charge, always took a break during our library hour. Sometimes we had to say Ms. H.'s name a couple of times to get her attention. Even so, I thought she was wonderful.
Right away, she realized how much I loved books. When new boxes of books were delivered to school, she would let me carry the boxes from the office to the library where she entrusted me with a box cutter (still can't believe this) and left me to unpack the new books while she read. I was in heaven. I can still remember carefully slicing through the packing tape, worried lest I scratch up a book inside...never mind about slicing off my fingers. I would peel open the box lid and run my hands over the colorful covers. Then I would select a book, lift it out, and always, always open it and smell the pages. I still love the smell of a book...new, old, musty, hardcover, paperback.
No one who knew me then would have believed that I, mini assistant librarian at the age of 10, would ever...EVER, be in bad standing at any library; but I am.
Several years ago, I checked out a huge stack of folk tale collections to share with my class. When I returned the books to the library, in the same plastic milk crate I had carried them out in when I checked them out, the thin little book of Jack tales was gone. I traipsed back out to my car and searched under the seats and in the trunk as if I thought perhaps the book itself was as big a trickster as its main character. Of course, the book was not in the car. I promised the librarian I would check my classroom; and I did. I asked students to check their lockers and their backpacks. I emailed all the parents and asked them to look around their houses. We never found the book. I had to buy it...from the library. It was expensive; and, since the book had disappeared, I had nothing to show for my money. I consoled myself with the fact that at least my borrowing privileges were reinstated.
I took it on the chin and continued checking out.
Then, a couple of years ago, another book in my possession met an unfortunate end. Books are always traveling around in the car with me...tucked in the glove box, in the center console, in the side compartment of the driver's side door, in the stretchy pocket on the back of the passenger seat. Somehow, one of these special passengers ended up in the backseat floorboard...right next to the leaky water jug my son takes to soccer practice. It didn't turn out well. I had to buy the book...from the library. Apparently, water damage is the unpardonable sin. This time, I got to keep the book which was still completely legible, just a little wavy across the top. I put it on my shelf at school.
My borrowing privileges were reinstated; and I carried on...a little more cautiously then before.
Now, it has happened again. During our recent snowy winter, I checked out many, many books. I left them stacked neatly on the bench beneath my kitchen window. That window has never leaked...never. It was a very safe and responsible place to stack my books.
The window leaked.
A book got wet. I know the drill. I will now have to buy the book...from the library. The librarian does not know, nor would she ever believe, that I once was the MOST privileged little person in our elementary library...that I was the FIRST to welcome books into our school and unpack them and shelve them. I used the box cutter for heaven's sake and never had a single incident! Nothing bad happened to any book on my watch.
I can barely stand the thought of going in to the library to admit that I have damaged yet another book. In order to avoid the inevitable shame, I have let the fine add up for a couple of weeks. This weekend, it will all come to a head. I will have to build up the nerve to face the raised eyebrows and knowing glances of the librarian. Where is Ms. H. now...when I need her most? Where is that blissfully oblivious librarian who trusted me completely?