I have banned myself from going to the library because I kept getting fines. I have five cards, one for each of the children and one for me, and once they all had fines on them I had to stop going. I don’t mind paying the fines in theory but they were all for silly amounts like $4.80 and $7.60 and like the queen I tend not to carry cash, although I suspect that our reasons are a bit different. The library does not accept eftpos, credit card, postage stamps or gift cards with unusably small amounts left on them which are the currencies I deal in so we parted ways. Well, really it was more that I didn’t want to keep racking up debt into eternity. Our library is a twenty minute drive away in the complete opposite direction than I ever go in for anything else. That might not seem like much but we live halfway to the middle of nowhere as it is and our petrol bills are killer. Doing a sixty kilometre round trip for nothing more than changing library books seems a bit extravagant.
I would take whichever small people were in my care at the time and because there are lots of us and library trips are few and far between we would come home with several dozen books at least. I would diligently keep track of the due dates and renew them, often several times. But it kept on happening that despite my best efforts I’d ring to renew a day or two late, or a week, and when you have 36 books and they charge you ten cents per book per day – or it might even be twenty, I can’t remember – it doesn’t take long to realise that you might as well just go and buy the books and at least not have to deal with the shirty librarian.
So for a couple of years the kids have used the school library and I have been a frequent visitor at the local and very excellent second-hand book exchange. I go through the playroom bookshelf, bundle up the fifteen dinosaur books that we always seem to end up with which are surplus to requirement (because there are always fifteen more) and go and swap them for some adult fiction. Sometimes they’re having a half-price sale and I end up with a credit for next time. Not only does this work out cheaper than the library but it’s also so close to the best bakery in the Waikato (this one, in case you’re in the neighbourhood) that it would be a crime against common sense not to pop in. A winning situation all round.
A couple of months ago I had some reason to be going south and I knew I’d be making the trip again a few weeks later so I allowed myself to pop into the library. On the C shelf they happened to have the entire collection of one of my favourite series including a new addition which I hadn’t known about so I took the lot. It’s not often you get the chance to read through from start to finish when you have to rely on the consideration of other borrowers not to take random ones out from the middle. The librarian looked a bit suspicious when I handed over a card belonging to a three-year-old to acquire eight inch-thick novels and she did mutter something about $4.80 or $7.60 which I happily ignored.
I thoroughly enjoyed the books again and took them back with only one renewal and no new fines at all. I happened to be in Otorohanga again a month or so later and seeing as the last library trip had been such a success I went back. On the ‘For sale for fifty cents’ rack outside the door was the first book in my beloved series. I took it inside, bought it, and asked if she realised that it was the first in a series and wouldn’t people be annoyed with trying to read the series without it? She looked a bit vague and said hmmm, maybe it’s not a very popular series and they’ll probably get rid of all of them over time. I said it should be popular because I liked it and how am I going to read them if they’re not there? That question went unanswered and seeing that my presence in the library foyer is intermittent at best I don’t think my chance of finding them all on the ‘For sale for fifty cents’ stand one by one is very high. I’ve never seen them in the book exchange or even in a real shop where you buy things that nobody else has owned before even once. So I’m not sure what my next step will be vis a vis my own access but I thought that if these lovely books are facing extinction because nobody knows how good they are then the obvious thing is to launch an awareness-raising campaign. Greenpeace did not seem to think it was within their realm so I’ll have to do it myself. So then:
‘Despite a total lack of training, an utter dearth of experience and a complete absence of inclination, Dr. Siri Paiboun has just been appointed state coroner for the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. It’s 1976, the royal family has been deposed, the professional classes have fled and the communists have taken over. And 72-year-old Siri – a communist for convenience and a wry old reprobate by nature – has got the coroner’s job because he’s the only doctor left in Laos.’ (Wikipedia)
As with many series I have read I’m not sure that the first book is the best; he really gets into his stride as he goes on. It doesn’t matter where you start, you get the hang of it from any individual book. There’s another series by the same author which I also highly recommend:
So, off to the library with you all. If you could fake whatever documents you need to join the Otorohanga library and read their copies so they stop selling them off I’d be really grateful. And just think how convenient it will be for returning them on time.