Today I went for an eye check. For a while now I’ve been taking off my glasses (I’m nearsighted) to work at the computer and to read books. The eye doctor’s verdict; my eyes are aging. In a week I’ll own my first pair of reading glasses. At last I have an excuse to treat myself to one of those spectacle-chains worn by librarians (real librarians, the ones who gave you the evil eye if you made the slightest noise). Through my teens and into my early twenties my mother would regularly rant that I should become a librarian. I always rolled my eyes. Just because you think every moldy book should be cherished as treasure, cataloged and kept on a shelf (in alphabetical order with all the other books one can go without food to afford) doesn’t necessarily mean one has the talents to be a librarian! At least not the kind of librarians I grew up with. Those ladies (and gentlemen) had degrees in librarianisms. They probably had fantastical dreams of living the Dewy Decimal System. I’m just a story teller who also happens to be a fanatical book hoarder.
It’s a different world now. These days I rarely see librarians proudly dangling their reading glasses; no doubt they’re all wearing bifocal contact lenses. It’s one more depressing symptom of so called progress. When I go to my local library I don’t take my book to a counter and talk to a human being. I take it to a book scanning machine, throw the book into something that looks like an oven without a door, shove my card into a slot, then I touch the screen. There aren’t even any Star Trek buttons to push! It makes me sad. A library should have a large wooden counter where a scary all knowing woman stands behind it giving you the evil eye as she silently reminds you that if you don’t bring the book back on time in the same condition it leaves her counter she’s going to make your life hell…by taking away your library card.
Now that most card catalogs have been thrown away, along with their magic smell of accumulated dusty knowledge, I suspect most people who work in libraries have degrees in “Media Studies”. Working in the library is probably a temporary job until they can find work in TV. How do I know this? When patrons make outlandish noise, they’re deaf to it. They have no evil eye to use! They don’t have that frightening quiet aura of knowledge. They no longer open the front leaf of each book and power-stamp the date you will return. They no longer spend years touching books allowing stories and information to seep into their fingers. How is that progress? And yes I sell all my stories in digital form…so there’s nothing to touch…yet. One day all my books will be in paperback, crammed onto a library shelf near you. In the mean time…I shall finish Dancing the Maypole!
I’m nearly done with chapter 40. The book now has 109,159 words (the longest book I’ve ever written and its not yet done). I think there are two more chapters (and one epilogue) unless the characters insist it needs to be longer. I do what they tell me…or they give me the evil eye and make my life hell by refusing to talk. It’s worse than having your library card revoked!