While I love my job, sometimes I get a little bit discouraged about it. This has been especially true lately, when several discussions about other people's lifestyles have opened my eyes to how much more income a family has when both parents have full-time jobs that pay well. (This makes me discouraged not just about my job, but about society in general, and about my future prospects for not being a destitute old woman who can't afford to retire. Ever. Even though I'm not entirely certain about the appeal of retirement anyway. I mean...hanging out at home all day long with your spouse? Who also has nowhere else to go? That doesn't sound at all conducive to my need for solitude.) But then I go to work, and funny, kind, encouraging things sometimes happen, and while I'm still not altogether sure I've made the right choices, I am grateful to have my library experiences.
Take, for example, this book cover:
I found it when I was pulling books for the mystery display in fiction. It's sort of a stereotypical sexy-detective image, the gun strapped to the thigh of the long-legged, beautiful detective (who in the book is also intelligent and a genius at figuring out crimes and good in bed and probably a really good cook as well). But for whatever reason (maybe because I'd watched Castle the night before?) the reality of the stereotype hit me: ummmm, wouldn't it be super hard to run with a gun between your legs? (Let alone the high heels.) Imagine the chafing! (Of course, I'm imagining said sexy detective chasing a bad guy down busy New York streets. Another stereotype. Which is why I don't like most mystery novels.) I started giggling right there in the B section.
The way that people choose what to read is endlessly fascinating to me. A common method: I just finished ______________ and I want to read something just like it. I had a teenage patron who wanted historical romances set in England, because she'd read all of Sarah Eden's books and wanted something similar. (I gave her Keeping the Castle by Patrice Kindl, Palace of Spies by Sarah Zettel, Ivy by Julie Hearn, and Cinders and Sapphires by Lelia Rasheed, none of which are exactly like Sarah Eden but that's ok because really: "Similar" is all you can hope for. Actually, "similar" is far better than "identical," because you get to have new reading experiences that are still, somehow, safe.) When she was checking out, she asked me if we had any "solid colored, not-see-through book bags." I showed her the container of plastic bags (all of which are, alas, fairly see-through) and she said, "Ahhh, that's too bad. I didn't want my mom to see how many books I'm checking out. She gets mad if I take home more than twenty." As I have (seriously, not joking) had arguments with Kendell over bringing home too many damn library books I could completely relate.
I was helping a mom and her teenage daughter find a historical YA novel. The mom really wanted her daughter to read The Book Thief. "You know the one," she told her daughter. "It's just like that movie The Monuments Men except for they're saving books instead of art. Stealing them right away from the Nazis, who were burning books all the time." Well...not exactly just like that. (I sent the daughter home with Ten Cents a Dance, The Berlin Boxing Club, and Chains; I don't think I've ever actually seen The Book Thief on the shelf, even before the movie.)
A patron came to me at the general reference desk, handed me his list of call numbers he'd written down, and said "I want you to teach me how to fish." I must've looked confused, so he continued. "I mean, I don't know how to find these, but I don't want you to find them for me. I want you to teach me how to find them." I taught him about the Dewey Decimal system, and about cutter numbers, and how the books flow on the shelves. He found almost every book he needed by himself, except for the one that was in Junior. And that is how an anti-pescetarian teaches someone how to fish.
An older, grizzled man with two chipped front teeth wanted to find out if the fourth book in the mystery-adventure series he was reading was out yet. While he waited as I looked, he told me that during the Renaissance, there were men who had certain pieces of knowledge, which they would only tell you for a price, and they would never reveal how to find out that knowledge on your own. (That sounds like an intriguing novel; it should be set in Florence, I believe, or maybe Venice.) Then he went on to say that is why libraries are so important. Not exactly because of what is inside libraries, but because of librarians (who are quite often, yes, inside libraries) who will teach you how to find out knowledge on your own. Then he shook my hand. And I tried not to cry.
So...maybe I'll never be able to afford to retire. Maybe I'm giving up being a wealthy, old retired lady for my life right now, when I work in the library and love my job. And maybe never retiring will be just fine, because seriously: I'll be working at the library.