Tuesday, after the fabulous H-Town downtown blogger lunch, I had to go to the library to do research for a case that is going to trial soon. When was the last time you visited a library? I’ve gone to them a few times in the past 10 years, but always to just check out a book or two and go home. Nothing extensive, and I normally know what book I need before I even walk in the door. I have never visited the main branch of the Houston Public Library here in downtown. I’ve lived here for the most part since 1985 – but the Harris County Library is right by home, so why go downtown? And I haven’t spent hours on end doing research in a library since I was in college in 1990 – and a lot has changed since then. It was an interesting adventure, to say the least.
When I arrived, I went straight to the information desk. I gave her a brief summary of the obscure data I was looking for, and she sent me up to the business section on the second floor. I know I was the research librarians dream at that moment – I headed straight to the desk and asked for help. I swear, there was a sparkle in her eye as she took me to the SRIs (Statistical Research Index) and showed me how to look up the information I needed. Then it was over to the microfiche drawers to pull what I needed from them.
All seemed to be going really well up to this point. Then it all changed. First of all, they don’t take coins in most of the machines anymore – you have to find the machine that dispenses a plastic card that you can add money to as you need it. I’m a fairly intelligent person, I like to think. That machine almost beat me though. Even worse was the microfiche machine. I had to check out a lens, then find a lens that would work with the machine.
Once I finally got everything set up, I started going through films. Oh my. I forgot that reading things on those machines makes me sick to my stomach! It must be the zoominess of moving from row to row as you search out what you need. Ack! One of the other library patrons actually commented that I looked sick – my cheeks were all pink and flush. I was miserable for the rest of the night.
After I finished with the machines, I went and talked with the librarian again about other research options and I discovered something that is pretty cool and amazing. If you have a library card, you can go online and find all sorts of things on their website! They have a lot of the periodicals online, so I could find articles that weren’t available on the microfiche. Absolutely amazing – where was this when I was in college?
Being an information junkie, I had to head down to the main desk to pick up a library card all my own. Even though I don’t live in the Houston city limits, the cards are free for any resident in the state of Texas. How did I miss the fact that this whole wealth of information was right under my nose all this time?
With my fresh library card in hand, I wandered through the fiction section on the main floor where they have a sampling of titles from other sections. It took all the strength I had left (after the whole tummy issue thanks to the microfiche machine) to not check out 20 books to read. Instead, I limited myself to three, which is probably more than I can read considering all the bookrings I have signed up for over at BookCrossing. It was really cool to walk in to the room and see Cory Doctorow’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom” standing up on display on the shelves – so cool, I actually stopped to take a picture of it! (Yes, I’m a dork. I’m well aware of it.)
I realized something as I left the library. As much as I love bookstores, I love the library even more. I don’t know why I have been avoiding them for all these years. When I was a girl, my elementary school was next door to the Kankankee Public Library and I used to go there all the time. It is such a pure delight to walk through the aisles, picking through all the books available for me to read and absorb and learn from. So much knowledge, so many words – it is almost intoxicating. Have you visited your local library lately? I know I will be returning to mine very soon!
Books, books, books – what wonderful things books are! Have you read any good books lately?