Welcome to the Library

Today I signed up for a library card at the regional library in Gabrovo. It is a simple process, of course, and yet I still had to take Nikola. Someone to hide behind. Sometimes I am not more than a five-year old, hiding in her mother’s skirts.

I paid 9 bgn for a year’s access to the books. Gave my personal information: date of birth, what level of education I have finished, you know, the important stuff. Then, I was given a simple, red laminated card.

I wonder why I didn’t go to the library earlier. I kept meaning to and yet, for some reason, I put it off. Today, the second drizzly day in a row, I felt the need to get Peatuk out of the house, and so we went to the library.

At the main library I borrowed a copy of Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise. Really, I didn’t know what I wanted. I wasn’t prepared to desire a book. I doubt I will have time to read it, but it seemed too absurd to go get a library card without checking something out.

Then we headed to the children’s library, where Peatuk picked out a book and Nikola got one to read him as a bedtime story.

In all, the experience probably lasted about half an hour and wasn’t a big deal. But it felt like a big deal. For some reason, signing up for a library card makes me feel like I am engaging at a place. Like I am settled. Like I will live here. To me, it is the most basic declaration of community. It says that I more than just live in a town. I am a part of that town’s infrastructure. I am participating in the most basic of shared culture.

Nikola doesn’t get it. A generational thing, perhaps? I was right at the cusp of easy internet access. In elementary and middle school I lived in the library. I was a total bookworm. I would love to go back and look at the records of the hundreds of books I checked out in those years. By high school, we had internet in our house, but I still didn’t use it for research. I still went to the library with a pile of index cards to write my senior paper. By college, though, I spent a lot less time in the library and more time on the computer. I don’t even think I got a library card in California or Tucson. By then, I did all of my research on the internet and bought all of my recreational novels at used book stores. Now, even most of my recreational reading time is done online. I wouldn’t say that books are obsolete, but I will say that I understand why Nikola doesn’t get the way a library can make me feel grounded and connected to a place.

To him, it was a bit archaic. 1 stotinki late fees? An hour of internet access each day? What is the point of that when everyone has mobile data plans? He has a point.

Still, to me it was a statement. A coming out, if you will. It is me saying that I am here to stay. Gabrovo. My home. Where I have a library card.

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