A Guy Walks Into a Library…

I took the girls to the library again so that they could return the books they checked out three weeks ago. They then wandered about looking for more books to check out. I think they like they concept of borrowing books. While I managed to resist the last time, this time, I couldn’t help me surrounded by so many books without taking a little time to browse. That browsing resulting in me checking out some books. That stack is now sitting on my desk at home:

the stack of books I got from the library

It has been a while since I have checked books out of the library. I support libraries, but I’ve reached the point where if I want to buy a book, or audio book, I buy it. I like thinking of it as mine, especially since I enjoy interacting with the book, marking it up with marginal notes, highlighting passages, etc. This has lead me to buy lots of books, although my tendency these days is to buy mostly digital copies: either Kindle or Audible. Now and then, I’ll buy paper copies for those books that I really enjoy and want on my bookshelves.

I was reminded today, there is something uniquely delightful about browsing books on a shelf and finding things I wouldn’t have find by simply browsing online. When looking at books organized on a shelf, I am essentially going through the collection alphabetically. There is no practical way to do this online. But the results are always interesting. This is how I managed to come up with a book called The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee (attracted by the words “catalogue” and “books”; and The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways by Earl Swift. In that case, I recall reading Roads by Larry McMurtry years ago and enjoying it. Finally, I am sucker for big books, and The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America by Douglas Brinkley fit the bill in this case. Actually, my first choice had been an even bigger book on Abraham Lincoln, but when I pulled it off the shelf, I discovered it was Volume II. Volume I was nowhere in sight. (It was not the Carl Sandberg biography, which I read back in 2016.)

It’s nice to read actual paper books now and then, and there is something about how library books are protected with their plastic shields that make them even more enjoyable. Often, when I read one of my own hard cover books, I remove the dust jacket so that it doesn’t get messed up. That isn’t a problem with library books. I used to enjoy looking at the card flap to see how many people had checked the book out before me, and how often. They don’t have card flaps anymore, alas. Now everything is done by barcode.

The big dilemma I face borrowing a library book versus just buying it is how to handle annotating the book. Since it has been a long time since I borrowed library books, I feel as if I have to figure out a good way to handle this all over again. My thought is that I will use those little book post-its that I can stick to pages pointing to relevant passages as I read. When I have finished, I can go through all those passages and make my notes from where the stickies are. I can then remove the post-its before I return the books and they will be as if I’d never touched them.

I worry that I will be able to get through all three books in the allotted time. After all, I just started reading the first volume of Shelby Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative, which means it will be several days before I can get started on any of these new ones. But then again, I have three weeks; and our library system allows us to auto-renew up to two times for books that aren’t brand new and have wait lists. So I really have plenty of time.

More than likely, I will buy the audio book editions so that I can squeeze in reading when I am doing other things (I often read the e-book or a paper version in parallel with an audio edition) and that helps to speed things along. Audio books are great for multitasking, but terrible for taking notes and marking passages, which is where the other editions come in as handy companions. I suspect that when I finally do return these books, I’ll be browsing once again, and bringing home some more.

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6 comments

    1. Thanks for this, Michael. I couldn’t tell from the page: how many books can you cover with a roll? I’m guessing I have around 800 hardcover books, so there would be a big time investment.

      1. I don’t recall how many books I cover with a roll, but I will tell you I’ve had to buy three rolls over the years. As for the time investment, my general rule has been that when I buy a new hardcover, I wrap it plus one of the hardcovers I already have. Eventually, all will get covered…

  1. You might want to check Libby by OverDrive, many libraries are part of the network and it’s an excellent way to check out audiobooks and Kindle books

  2. Libby is a godsend…. Also, for my notetaking, I just put one big post-it in the back and write down pages numbers as I go along. If when I go back over the book and I can’t figure out what I wanted on that page (which sometimes happens) I figure it wasn’t actually important enough to permanently capture.

    Can’t use those little book flags….my cat chews them off the moment I put the book down!

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