Today, I set out to do something I haven't done since high school (over 7 years ago). I went to a public library. I visited Carmel Clay Public Library on my lunch break because I've been reading all kinds of rave reviews about Jeff Pearlman's new $15.00 book, Boys Will be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty.
I've been trying to save money recently. So instead of purchasing the book from Barnes and Noble, only to find myself reading the book one time, I thought heading the library was both financially and environmentally (save the trees, go green!) responsible.
(Note: I should preface the following story by mentioning that I grew up in Carmel and went to Carmel High School across the street from the Carmel Public Library. This is important because it would be logical to assume that I have visited said library in the past.)
Before I left, I checked the website card-catalog to see if the book was on hand. It was not but it was currently being shipped and on order.
I do not have a library card. I did have one at one time, but it was stolen when my wallet was snagged out of my pocket while crowd surfing many moons ago (now that i remember my library card was in my wallet, it explains why someone wanted to steal it!) So I was also semi-excited to get my very own adult library card - something I took for granted as an adolescent because I didn't realize that all library cards were "adult" library cards. I guess I just figured that if I was in high school, my library card would prohibit me from checking out certain material, or purchasing cigarettes or entering the army.
If you see this building, don't go inside. They keep track of outstanding fees for as long as 7 years! --------------->>
I walk in and immediately remember that all libraries smell the same (old dusty books surprisingly smell great.) It's one of those things that brought me back to late nights in the library, studying notes and reading historical memoirs for social studies exams...oh this just in, I never did that. The only time I was in the library was when I was passing through to buy coffee on my way out of skipping high school classes or whenever I heard Britney Spears was on the cover of Rolling Stone.
I approach the massive help desk to be helped by a kind Indian woman, whose name I cannot pronounce or type. I informed her that I had two questions. 1) How can I get a library card? 2) can I reserve a book that has never been in the building?
She listed the criteria under which I could get a new free library card (resident of carmel/clay township, I needed a valid address on a piece of identification and I needed to have never had an account before.) None of her listed items qualified me for a card, but luckily I'm quick on my feet and lied enough times to qualify myself. Unfortunately, after I told her that I lived in Carmel Twnsp, that the address on my license was valid (it's my parents' address - which is not my current address) and that I had never had an account before, I immediately realized that she would probably be able to see that I did, in fact have an account at one time, so I fessed up - "oh, you know what? I think I did have an account here a long time ago."
From there, my first visit to a library in seven years went downhill.
Sure enough, there I was on her computer screen. "Well since you have an account but no card, that means that this would be a replacement card and you'll have to pay $3 for a new one," she told me. Turns out it costs money to check out free books. I fork over the $3.00 and she hands me a card and says, "it looks like you have checked out items...you can't check anything out until payment is received."
Fees!!??? My account was suspended in 2004. The last time I checked out a book (coincidentally, an issue of Rolling Stone) was in 2001, and this woman is going to hang a bunch of fees over my head? "How much are we talking?" I ask. $27.50. I have wracked up $27.50 since 2001 for a magazine that costs $4.95 tops. I plead with the woman to just wipe my slate clean, for all I want is to check out a book and enjoy my first library experience in over half a decade. No luck. She won't let me check anything out until I pay my fees. So far, my library trip has cost me $30.50.
Since the book isn't even on hand, I ask if I can place a "hold" on it so that I can check it out when it does actually come in. She tells me I can, but that I needed to go to the computer in the middle of the room to do so. So I figure, I'll place a hold on the book and pay the fees later (or charm another unsuspecting librarian into erasing my fees). Of course, once I try to hold the book on the computer, the screen reads - USER BLOCKED. Great. I can't even put a hold on this $14.95 book that I've already paid $3.00 for and another $27.50 to come later....AND I have to get this book back in on time to avoid more fees!? No wonder I haven't been here in so long!
I decide to abort mission and head back to work. So final tally of events - I paid $3.00 for a library card that I can't use until I pay $27.50 for a $15.00 book that isn't even there yet.
...to make matters worse, someone has already put a hold on this ONE COPY of Boys Will be Boys book. So I was late. Going to the library is too much work. Maybe I'll go check back again in seven years.