I once left a library book on a train. I was terribly upset for two reasons. One. It was a library book, not my book, and it felt almost like stealing through negligence. Two. I hadn’t finished reading it!
And, actually, three. It was a library book. I know that’s just One again, but I felt really bad about it.
Losing library books feels like stealing food from the starving poor. Or being mean to puppies. Or something.
The book was Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World, so it wasn’t like I was waiting to find out whodunnit, or whether the secret plans were recovered, or if Frodo really got to Mordor. But it was a damned good book.
Lost and Found never found it, so I duly called the library and paid for the replacement, and because I couldn’t wait, I also bought my own copy of the book and finished it. *aaaaah, the literary relief of it*
I thought of this incident at the beginning of the year when I read about the anonymous return of an overdue library book 27 years after the fact.
I was impressed that someone wanted to do the right thing after all that time, and the financial cunning they showed in doing it anonymously. Even though I know the library would not have charged them the nearly $3000 in overdue fees, because libraries don’t actually work like that.
Sadly, when I was a teenager, I met someone who confessed that they stole books from the local library. I can’t even remember now whether or not she read them, or just nicked them for the fun of it. I remember being horrified and we stopped being friends shortly afterwards.
The weird thing is that I was mortified partly because, you know, theft, but mostly because, you know, theft from a library. I don’t know why that makes it worse, except, of course, that libraries are sacrosanct.
I’m assuming I’m not the only one with an intense quasi-sacred regard for library books. So please, share your library-book-pain stories with me, and we can all go seek therapy together.