Do you know your library card number by heart? I do.
I don’t even know my driver’s license number, but can rattle off those fourteen numbers that are my passport to that world of ideas-and-wonder-and-information-for-free out loud or on a keyboard without a second thought.
My friend Jemae can too. We’re the only two I know who can, but I bet there are others. And I bet there are plenty, because I live in the county that has, along with New York City, the highest amount of library usage in the country. I think that is a truly righteous Mark of Distinction for my hometown. Portland’s keeping weird, but Portland reads. A lot. (We’re also the home of Powell’s Books, but that’s another topic).
Okay, I buy more books than I probably need to – as my bulging bookcases will readily testify – but for those books that I don’t think I will read again, or know I don’t want to make notes in or underline (yes, I do that, though not often, I still have mixed feelings about whether it is an act of adoration or desecration), or think will take more than the allotted check-out time to finish, the library is still a rich and generous repository. Some portion of the novels or poetry and cookbooks that are lying about the house on any given day are likely to be library books.
I love libraries; the quiet reverence of them, the smell and feel of all that abundance (an e-reader, advantageous as it may be in some cases, like traveling, will never ever replace the weighty promise that is a book-in-hand). And yes, I sort of miss the cabinets with the long file drawers of typed index cards, alphabetized and Dewey decimal assigned, one for each book, sometimes with updated notes written at the bottom in pencil.
It will make you want to curl up with a good book. I promise.