I’m Having an Affair with My Library

bedtime reading

It all started back when I got my library card, right before summer. I felt sad and confused, having said goodbye to my Milwaukee County library card long ago.

I never recovered from that loss. It took time to heal, to open up to the notion of loving again.

Strange, because I love books so much. I continued to read, mainly on my Kindle or the occasional used book from Powell’s. I wasn’t reading as much though, not as much as when I had my last love—my library card.

Stranger still, my neighborhood library is two blocks away. I would pass it often, lusting over the dusty shelves from the sidewalk, pining over the stories I longed to hold.

One day, fed up with loneliness, I was ready to love again and I got my Multnomah County library card. And so began my library love affair.

As with any new relationship, there were uncertain and embarrassing moments. It had been so long since I had been inside a library, that I forgot to use my “library voice.” When it came time for me to use the self-checkout, and I struggled with the machine, I begged for help in my outside voice. (For those who have never heard me speak, my voice carries far.)

The library stopped—the symphony of whispers, the rhythmic flick of the pages. I blushed and the nice librarian man came to my rescue.

The library resumed its mellow song.

I scurried out of the musty building, a far cry from the way I sauntered in. I looked down at my book on the gum-stained sidewalk and smiled with love.

For the first time in life, I discovered reading outside on a summer night. It was magnificent.

summertime reading

Another first for me…reading at the bar. People read at bars in Portland, so it’s not frowned upon.


Without planning it, my beer and book ended up with matching outfits. Darling, aren’t they?

reading with beer

After a long run with ebooks—unable to grasp the length of the story—I gasped when I picked this one up and understood the life commitment I had made.

thick book

Then there was the one that changed me, long after I returned it…”How Yoga Works.”

yoga book

Instead of getting angry over this cigarette burn, I marveled at its progression through the pages.

burned book

For any book that is well-loved will carry the stained memories of those who loved it.

cigarette burn in book

Traditionally I have been a devout protector of books—never one to write in the margins, highlight a sentence, or burn or rip it for whatever reason. Except for the occasional chocolate smudge that just won’t rub off, I don’t spill on books either.

Why? Because books have always been living beings to me, and I never want to harm them.

As I explored many books this summer, I was simultaneously horrified and fascinated by the dog-eared pages. When I found one, I would narrow my eyes at the page, silently shaming the person who dared to molest that crisp corner. But then I scanned the page, curious to read which sentence or paragraph compelled them to crease it forever.

And because that part touched someone else so deeply, it had the same effect on me. So I decided to fold the corner of a page this time—to leave my mark, to affect someone else through the majesty of words.

a moveable feast

“People were always the limiters of happiness except for the very few that were as good as spring itself.”  – Mr. Ernest Hemingway, from “A Moveable Feast”

** This post is dedicated to the lovely Letizia at Reading Interrupted, who lost her dear furry friend, Baffi.

You have reminded so many of us about the magical importance of loving books and libraries. Thank you, Letizia.

44 thoughts on “I’m Having an Affair with My Library

  1. Oh, Britt, I loved this post from start to finish. I am guilty guilty guilty of folding over pages, or even highlighting passages that I will want to find when I am researching, but only on my own books. I too love to see what catches the interest of others, or even to go back to my own books and see what it was, years later, that compelled me to leave my mark in a book.

      1. There are certain books I treat with reverence–like the old ones with inscriptions from my grandparents to their children, or from my dad to my mom. But my kids will find my books tattered and well worn, with all the good parts marked out for them!

  2. There’s nothing quite like the feel of paper between your fingers. I still don’t have a Kindle and somehow I don’t feel much for it but now that my book shelves can’t take it anymore – nor the rest of the house (garage included) I better get looking for a local library. Love those places. Oasis of peace and silence.. Maybe the only place today to find that.
    I’ve been brought up with a huge reverence for books. Our house library was like “sacred ground” and we (my sis and I) always had to make sure we had washed our hands. Both my parents were/are bookworms but especially my dad went a little over the top when it came to taking care of.
    My own books speak for a life of respectful usage. I treat them well, but I do write in them occasionally and some of them hold souvenirs. We like to leave a trace for different reasons.. to affect others and to be remembered in some small way?

    1. I love both…though, of course, nothing beats print. I’ve read a lot of indies on my Kindle, who like me, do not have their books available for print. This is something I’m working on as there are many who still prefer print books and CreateSpace now offers print-on-demand, which is amazing. Just trying to find the time to get them formatted—a huge pain in the ass. 🙂

      Same here. My mom is a devout bookworm, so I was fortunate to grow up with great respect for books. Haha, on the hand-washing! We didn’t go quite that far, but I understand.

  3. Gasp! You turned down a corner? I have a primeval instinct against that sort of desecration. Funny, I’ve never borrowed a book since I was a kid. I use the Central Library here but only for study and writing. I wish they served beer there though 🙂

    1. Finally…someone who feels the same way about book corners! I felt like I was breaking the law when I folded it.

      Beer at the library. Surprised they’re not dong that here. 😉

  4. I just joined a book club sponsored by the libraey. It meets at a working nature preserve farm. We read, “Flight Behavior, ” which has the migration of Monarchs in it along with a simple farming family, their relationships and science played part of this adventure. I love borrowing books now that I have an empty nest with less room. I like to say my living area is small but my life and where I like,to “play” is outside the box. 🙂

  5. I enjoyed this post Britt the library has such a distinct smell and brings me back to my childhood. My mum would drop me off with my older siblings whilst she ran errands in town and I would lose myself in stories. That library smell is still a joy to me. Weird huh? Don’t get me started on damaged books, it gets under my skin too.

    1. This library smells a little bit more like musty carpet than books, but I still love it to pieces. My mom skipped the errands and eventually (when I was hungry) I’d have to drag her out of whichever bookstore or library we were in. 🙂

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