Our Reading Lives

Learning to Love a New Library

Our Reading Lives features stories about how books and reading have shaped who we are and how we live. It is open not only to regular Book Riot contributors, but to guest posters from the publishing industry, authors, and….you. If you are interested in telling us about a book that has been influential in your life, please contact us: community (at) bookriot (dot) com.

A branch of the Baltimore County Public Library opened in Owings Mills and it has that gaseous, exciting new building smell of cellophane, and carpet remnant. All the books are new: so glossy, so brand-spanking, so fresh that when you open them they rustle. Getting my paws on them would be like plundering the New World or, my version of it.

I’ve never experienced a library like this: scrubbed, suburban. The walls were emphatically white. All the libraries I’ve known have been scruff-beige, smelled like wet newspaper, leather, and other people’s hats; all their books have been signed out a thousand times and bear evidence of that experience in accidental dog ears, pen strokes and coffee drips. Old city libraries. College libraries. In other words, shrines.

So it was a big deal What Book I Would Choose As My First Book from this new sterile suburban place not really yet deserving of the appellation Library, saved that it housed books, and a staff of well-meaning iPad wielders, eager to help one and one’s children, carved out of former woods and farmland to make a new multi-use development anchored by a Wegmans.

I chatted with the librarians. Chatting with librarians is, for someone like myself, akin to rubbing shoulders with household gods. One of the librarians recommended The Best of P.G. Wodehouse: An Anthology, on account of my query for something summer: light, witty, British, and pre-war.

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?’”
“The mood will pass, sir.”

I have been, ever since, as Wooster, B., would say “all of a doodah” over my new library, going back there, even before my books are due, “straining at the leash,” “panting like a hart” to take my place in suburbia, to be among the denizens of the forest of the Dewey Decimal System.

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