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On Getting Carded

As I write this, I am drunk out of my mind.








Yes, I am utterly intoxicated. By the power of my library card.

It sounds a little silly, I know, but bear with me.

The last time I had a library card – the last time I physically checked a book out of a library – was in college. I’m talking at least an entire decade ago. And I can assure you, it was nothing I wanted to read. Probably that book on Barbie I skimmed for my thesis.

I don’t know what happened after college. Borrowing books from the library seemed passé. I was writing for a newspaper and my eyes were pretty much crossed by the end of the day; the last thing I wanted to do was pick up a book. CDs were purchased. Movies were viewed in the theater or, ahem, borrowed indefinitely from that special drawer in the newsroom. I also spent a lot of time in bars, drinking, smoking and being otherwise illiterate.

Then I moved to Chicago. There were infinitely more Borders than library branches – you do the math.

Something inside me shifted when I moved to the suburbs in 2008, and I got overly excited upon realizing I would have access to a great city library. That is, until I looked at my property tax bill.  Technically my husband and I live outside the city limits and therefore don’t pay taxes to the library. So, it would cost $190 if I wanted to purchase a library card.

Instead, I did what any responsible (read: cheap) person would do – I volunteered my time to the library instead of spending my dollars. Every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., you can find me in the circulation department, wrapping, organizing and shelving hold materials for library patrons. Last week, after six months of service, I was presented with my very own (fine-exempt!) library card.

Praise jeebus.

Frankly, I may as well have won a million dollars given all the materials now available to me. Not only can I check out books, movies, CDs and a wealth of other materials from the library that issued the card, I can also order materials from libraries all over the Chicago suburbs. There is almost nothing I can’t get my hands on (well, in terms of media … hee).

I almost didn’t know what to do when I got my card. I was at first paralyzed by the overwhelming number of options I now had, but paralysis soon gave way to a heady feeling.  Happiness.  Sheer joy!  I was finally able to read and listen to and view every single thing I’ve ever wanted to, all without spending my life savings.

Thus far I’ve checked out three books – “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant,” “The Illustrated Kitchen Bible” and “Best Food Writing 2005” – and honestly?

Best hangover I’ve ever had.

27 responses to “On Getting Carded”

  1. BB222 BB222 says:

    Hey, great piece. I have to say though, from someone who worked in a library for years, those beer goggles will wear off soon!

  2. Avatar angela says:

    Hey! Congrats, fine-exempt library card holder! May the hangover be ENDLESS.

  3. Avatar Kate says:

    Awww, thanks, Angela!

  4. Kate, you may have just inspired me to get a library card. Similar to yourself, I haven't been to a library since college. And admittedly, half of those visits were to use the bathroom. I think the last time I had a public library card, I was accused of stealing an issue of Ranger Rick. The whole experience turned me off to "the system." But I think I'm ready to get back into the stacks.
    …they have comic books at libraries, right?

    • Avatar Kate says:

      I think so! Depends on the library, but you're in Jersey City, right? I'm assuming they have a pretty comprehensive library system … now, go get that card! 🙂

      • UPDATE: The Jersey City Public Library system does not offer comics.
        And in related news, the Jersey City Public Library system employs &#^$!* @*$%# who wouldn't know "valuable reading material" if it jumped up and bit them on their ^#%(!^$ ass! They should all go to #$*@&$^ Hell. Go directly to !&##^@} Hell. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

        • Avatar Kate says:

          Gah! What the hell is that shit?!?

          • I wish someone was with me to corroborate my story… The two women I spoke with at the main branch of the JC library were so unhelpful, rude and dismissive of my simple question. You'd think WTF I asked!
            Me: Excuse me, does the library offer comic books?
            C_nt #1: Like comics…
            C_nt #2: cartoon books?
            Me: Comic. Books. Comic books? (As I pulled X-Men Origins: Nightcrawler from my bag)
            C_nt #2: Oh no (laughing)
            C_nt #1: No. The libraries here (in JC) only offer valuable reading material.
            Me: Valuable? What's that even mean?
            C_nt #1: Well…well, not your comic books…
            Me: Thanks for nothing (walked out)

          • Avatar Kate says:

            So, what, Jodi Picoult is considered valuable reading material, but comic books aren't? What is this world coming to? I think you should write a letter a week (Andy Dufresne-style) and insist comics get a place at the public library!

          • Avatar llxt says:

            i totally believe this. the librarians where i work (read: teach & mind my own shit) at are SO NOT HELPFUL. the look on their face when you ask them a question indicates that yes, indeed, you are taking up precious time in which they have much more important things to do. those things apparently have nothing to do with customer service. seriously, i'd like to take my local dunkin donut employees and replace the librarians with them. i'd actually get better service.

          • Avatar llxt says:

            i totally believe this. the librarians where i work (read: teach & mind my own shit) at are SO NOT HELPFUL. the look on their face when you ask them a question indicates that yes, indeed, you are taking up precious time in which they have much more important things to do. those things apparently have nothing to do with customer service. seriously, i'd like to take my local dunkin donut employees and replace the librarians with them. i'd actually get better service.

          • Avatar Kate says:

            So sad. Maybe this is a city v. country thing. Based on my experiences while living in Chicago, it wouldn't shock me to hear the librarians there aren't helpful. And while my suburban town has its own issues, mean librarians isn't one of them. They are all so NICE. And HELPFUL. It's weird in the best way possible.

          • Avatar The Tailor says:

            Poop, that's a super dick move on your library's part. Fine, don't carry comics, wg=hich I disagree with, they should be carried. If you want kids to read, it's a good start. But there's no need for the staff to be that insulting,

  5. Kail Kail says:

    I love this piece…Libraries can be wonderful, peaceful, inspiring…and unlike a massive Book/Movie/CD/Coffee store, (which I still go to all the time) I feel like I have more freedom in a library, more real choice somehow, because I'm not oppressed by signs telling me what is hot, what's 30% off, what I simply must buy if I'm a self-respecting American consumer.
    I've moved around a lot lately and haven't been able to get a library card…but it'll be one of the first things I do once I'm settled somewhere!

    • Avatar Kate says:

      I really prefer libraries to chain book stores. Even when I didn't have a library card, just the energy of the place made me so happy. Little kids excited about their books, really smart employees and adults choosing to put their literacy to use. All such wonderful things.

      • Avatar The Tailor says:

        Kail, I've been in those chain stores with you, and i's funny how we always come back to the difference between them and libraries. Maybe moronic sales associates who are just trying to seel you credit cards or whatever isn't that much of a switch from mean librarians.

  6. Avatar llxt says:

    i was thinking of becoming a librarian, for the sexiness of it, but i'm a little maxed out on student loans right now. i guess a "card" will have to do for now… kudos for volunteering, though. as a {part-time} town employee, i know how much volunteers are needed at libraries!

    • Avatar Kate says:

      Librarians can be pretty sexy. I have a friend who is a school librarian and she's a total fox. And you're so right about libraries needing volunteers — I think the one I work at has about 90 volunteers, but they could ALWAYS use more. Especially now that people are spending more time in them as opposed to paying full price for books, music, movies, etc.

  7. Avatar Christina says:

    In the long run, and with the small budgets most libraries have, volunteering was the best way to go! If more people volunteered at my local one, it probably would not be (most likely) closing.

    • Avatar Kate says:

      That's so sad that it's closing! I was reading an article not too long ago about some place in Texas (I'm pretty sure it was Texas) where every single book store had closed down, devastating people, including one little girl who pretty much lived to hang out at them. I couldn't imagine living someplace where books weren't readily available. *shudder*

      • Avatar llxt says:

        BPL just closed 4 branches and "laid off" 69 people at their main branch in Copley Square. So sad. 🙁 Maybe if I wouldn't paid my library fines…

  8. acbauch123 acbauch123 says:

    I love libraries, always have, and I thank you for sharing your love of them too. Some of my happiest childhood memories are from our tiny, local library, which shared a building with the volunteer fire department and town hall. I spent many wonderful hours curled up in a chair in the basement, reading Judy Blume, Roald Dahl, Encyclopedia Brown, Beverly Cleary, and anything else I could get my hands on.
    Ah, thanks for bringing all of that back by writing this piece! :0)

  9. Avatar The Tailor says:

    Libaries are awesome. Nicely put. :

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Kate About Kate

Kate Wade has her very own office at work. It comes complete with a sink, refrigerator and a back door (escape route?), clearly its most important feature.

Read more by this author on 30POV .


December 2010
November 2010
On My Honor
October 2010
Witch Hunt
September 2010
If, Then.
May 2010
Small Crimes
April 2010
February 2010
"It's Complicated"
January 2010