Why my husband hates the library

To take a break from writing my final paper, I thought I’d recount an amusing story my husband told me this weekend, when we were on our “date night” (a span of roughly two hours, during which we went to Best Buy and talked to the Mac salesman, and then to Agua Linda).  Over a dinner of vegan Mexican food, my husband (Mr. LShevaun) reminded me of his most memorable encounter with our local public library, an event which he has never forgotten, even though it happened over ten years ago.  He gave me permission to post it here. 

Back in the 90s, he was going through a rough period, and one thing he really looked forward to was the chance to read Bruce Sterling’s new book Heavy Weather. He ascertained that it was at the public library, but when he asked, he was told it was checked out but he could put a hold on it. At this point, his memory becomes a bit hazy–did he indeed put a hold on it, or did he just say, “I’ll check back later”?

In either case, six months later finds him back at the library, still searching for Heavy Weather. This time, an employee informs him the book is not available because it is “on the bookmobile.” “What does that mean?” responded my husband in consternation, by which I think he meant, “How do I get that book if it’s riding around the county on the bookmobile?” The employee, he claims, offered no assistance, explanation, or sympathy.

The happy ending for this story, if you’re anxious for one, is that my husband did get to read Heavy Weather. He ordered it from Amazon, and he credits his library experience for making him a loyal and longstanding Amazon customer.

The flip side of this, though, is that he developed a stubborn dislike for that public library, and for years he did not set foot in it again. Even now, when he sets foot in it, he doesn’t like it. “They think they’re the Pope of public libraries,” he told me over chips and salsa. I had to laugh. The day before we had spent family time at a different public library (which is actually closer to our house), and he had happily checked out several graphic novels. He loves a good story, whether it’s one he’s reading or one he’s telling me.

So, he doesn’t really hate all libraries. But that one pivotal experience with his local library was enough to turn him off the library for years. It’s an excellent object lesson to keep in mind–if people perceive that a library does not care or will not help them, they may choose to stay away, even if they could really use the library’s services.  And it may take years to win them back.

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Published in: on December 3, 2008 at 9:28 pm  Leave a Comment  
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