Friday, November 7, 2008

Library visit and a sense of smell

I've always been an avid reader and consequently I always have had a "love-affair" with books. Not only the content, you understand, but also the actual item. Perhaps this influenced my decision to choose the printing industry as a career. When conducting visitors on tours of the book-printing plant I worked in for all of 35 years, I often astounded them with the enthusiastic statement, "the smell of a new book, turns me on"! It still does. Borders, Barnes & Noble and the like may try to disguise this by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, but it doesn't fool me. I can still breath in that combination of paper, ink and binding adhesive. It comes a close second to the scent of freshly baked bread or newly mown grass.

Alas, the same cannot be said for public libraries. They have a unique aroma and in my experience it is an international condition. I cannot remember never being a library member. We were when in England, in Spain, and didn't waste any time signing up when coming to live in North Carolina. Of course the digital age has changed the layout of many such establishments. Vast amounts of space are now taken up by audio books, CDs, DVDs and of course by many, many computers.

We have the choice of several branches, but we prefer the trip downtown to the main county library, where there is an enormous choice of the written word to be digested. It also carries copies of
Trains magazine which I enjoy reading but have never got round to subscribing to. Our regular three-weekly visit was scheduled for Wednesday, but without any prior notice we found it to be closed for the day - staff meeting. Okay, while we were in the vicinity I took the opportunity to pay our annual property tax [council tax] and rescheduled our visit for Thursday.

With respect to librarians, they are one of those breed of workforce that are "born, not made". I know I can be accused of stereotyping here, but I'm speaking from experience over many years and many libraries, in
Norfolk England, Benalmádena Spain, and now here in Durham North Carolina. Don't take this the wrong way, this is not a criticism (although a small minority are less than helpful), just an observation.

So what am I saying here? Hardly any differences between public libraries in England, Spain and North Carolina? Actually, no, there isn't. I'm not sure though how many books one is allowed at a time now in Norfolk County libraries (it was 8 when we lived there). In Spain it was a meagre 4, but our wonderful Durham County Library allow us 50, yes fifty, at one time - that's books, audio books and CDs! Just how the most enthusiastic reader would get through this amount in the three week checkout period I'm not sure. I usually borrow four books, one a week plus a spare. Perhaps I'm not such an avid reader as I thought I was!

I never did find out what that meeting was about. My usual charitable wife did remark, after a encounter with a particularly sourly staff member, that it certainly wasn't a training session on "How to greet customers with a smile"! No coment.

No comments: