Monday, September 24, 2007

My library

I got a direct invite to join Shelfari - and went for it, as I had been thinking of joining librarything, which is pretty much the same kind of thing, as near as I can tell, though shelfari may not be as efficient. It takes a long time to add books on Shelfari, so I can only put in a few at a time and, as I have a large library, its far from complete. They don't have all my books listed in their database. Their cover images can take forever to load, or refuse to load at all (you can still get the name of a book by mousing over it though). I'll readily admit Shelfari's best feature is its price - free. gives an idea of my interests.

No these aren't just books I have read. These are books I own, unless a few of them have died in storage since the last time I looked. I don't borrow from the county library. Years ago, they had a couple of ladies there accusing me of losing books I never checked out, not returning books I had long ago returned on time etc. I think it was because I protested their selling for 3-5.oo leatherbound classic editions of the likes of Shakespeare & Walt Whitman when their own paperback editions were literally falling apart on the shelf. Sure enough, after they sold mine, the others died as well. They used the money to buy works from a suggested buy list obviously made by someone friendly to the more radical elements of the Dem. ntnl party, iykwim.

Eventually they admitted their accusations were wrong, especially when I personally came in with my family and demanded to see where I was supposed to have signed for the books I had not checked out. They couldn't do that. (Hurray! that they still used a signature system then. :P)I also found that both books they claimed I hadn't returned were on the shelf - with the correct- on time- check-in date. With the evidence staring them in the face, they apologized. How big of them.

Looking back on it, I think maybe the accusations were the pre-work for discrediting the messenger, in case I took their biased stocking & purchasing behavior before the county board, you know? But after they retracted their foolishness and apologized, I simply left. My decision was to quit supporting them. Every local library I lived near elsewhere had me as a regular patron & supporter. I'd look for good copies of classics that were croaking or make cookies for their bake sales if I could do nothing else.

Of course the local library has puttered along just fine without me (they are publicly funded after all). Whether you'd think they have done a good job or not depends on how much you like old potboilers, pop psychology, biased discussions of historical events for which they usually lack the regular history books, romances, the occult or Maya Angelou. I'm not saying a public library shouldn't include such books, but not at the expense of carrying the classics! Also, if they are going to promote other belief systems, shouldn't the majority faith of this nation be represented, at least?

Meantime our personal collection has expanded to include a number of time-life series like the companion sets on the allies and the axis powers of WWII - & classic literature books they insisted on selling at one of their quarterly book sales. Every time I would check and find they had little to no coverage on topics that they were selling off for a song - no copies of Emily Dickinson in the catalog - yet they were selling a special edition of her collected works. I became more politic about how I brought up these issues, but it never seemed to matter. They didn't I went home with Emily, Eisenhower, & Rommel.

Now all this was years ago but every so often we have gone in to check their book sales & checked them over while there. Took my son in to show him the Dewey decimal system in action & the card catalog, but sadly, the latter had been removed. Its a pity libraries haven't realized those catalogs were an asset that would bring people like us, because they still appear on standardized tests! Even showing the Dewey system wasn't as easy as I'd have anticipated because of the emptiness of the shelves. "Yes, dear, this is where American history should go - over there should be English poets" ::sigh::

In their new building they are able to keep a small bookshop's worth of books rather than just holding sales a few times a year. You can always find a few conservative selections &/or classics over there as well as outdated travel books & newer potboilers. The people at the desk seem to be a lot nicer - but the selection on the shelves has not improved so far as any of us have been able to tell...and this is definitely still a choice on the part of the staff, given what they keep selling off. They buy computers but not C.S. Lewis or L'Engle or Asimov or Bunyan or St Augustine or Pratchett or Plato. The only way to read Voltaire in their library is to download his works from on their internet connection. They might have a copy of one Jules Verne's books - maybe. Mind you, I wouldn't check out a book from them now even if they did have one I liked. I don't think they use physically signed signatures anymore, and I have no idea if the dishonest clerks of yesteryear have access to the digitized accounts, kwim?

So - if my kids were going to become bibliophiles like ma, pa, & grandma, we were going to be regularly going across the river in some direction (there are good libraries in the region, all about an hour or two away) or we were going to be buying our own books. Given the head start we already had, and the numerous secondhand and bargain stores around here, option 2 was easier...except for the fact that I have always needed more shelves. More space for more shelves would be even better ::grin::

Now the local library could benefit from checking out my shelves rather than the reverse.

I figured I might as well share 'my shelf' here since shelfari gives that option. If you see a big blank spot below this text instead of books on a shelf, its just likely to be them as you - don't worry about it.

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