Library Nerdiness

When I got married, I moved to a new county, and the most exciting thing (other than getting married, of course) was joining my new county’s library system, which is much larger than the one I was used to.

However, I soon realized that a larger library system doesn’t necessarily have more books. As I perused the shelves at the new library, I saw that they contained several copies of the newest and most popular books, which is nice. In my old library, when a new book came out, I had to wait what seemed like forever to check it out because everyone would jump on it before I did.* Because there were literally ten copies of the newest Stephen King, I was able to check it out and renew it once without the system telling me I couldn’t renew it because some other patron had requested it.

Then I began to realize that the new library does not seem to keep older books on the shelves unless they are classics or extremely popular. When it comes to nonfiction, that is likely a good thing because nonfiction stuff tends to go “out of date” faster than fiction because new developments come up in the field.** Even with fiction, it’s somewhat of a good thing because to be honest, most novels don’t withstand the test of time and should be culled to make room for the newer ones.

I wondered what they did with all the older books, then remembered The Giant Book Sale that goes on every spring. The library system gathers all its unwanted/discarded/out-of-date books (and others that I assume are donated) into a huge expo center and sells them over the course of three days. If you want the best and biggest variety, it is better to go on the first day and grab as many books as you can lay your greedy hands on, but on the third day, what remains is sold at dirt-cheap prices, so you still end up with a good deal. It is like heaven for book nerds. My old county does an annual book sale, too, but theirs is much smaller and has much less variety.

The reason for that is probably because my old county keeps many of its older books on the library shelves. In terms of nonfiction, this is annoying because who the hell cares about the 1992 edition of What Color Is Your Parachute? and the 1980 edition of Writer’s Market? (I exaggerate, but still…) But it is nice that older fiction stays on the shelves longer because you have a better chance of getting to read most of an author’s backlist, and nerds like me might not discover those books otherwise. It is also nice to still see books that I read in my teens on the shelf many years later. It’s like seeing old friends, and it makes me happy because it means that some other nerdy teenager can discover the books the same way I did (assuming teenagers can rip their eyes away from their screens long enough to read a book).

All of this difference is probably because my new county is still a lot more wealthy than the old one, and they can afford to buy new books all the time. But the difference was interesting. Maybe when I retire, I can be one of those old ladies who volunteers at the library, reads to little kids, and tells everyone to shush. Perhaps I could get some say, or at least some deeper insight, into what goes into those decisions about which books to buy for the library and which to get rid of.

*It is extremely rare when I buy books brand new. I hate to say this because it doesn’t support authors, but I just can’t justify laying down $20 or more for a book that I will likely read only once.

**Even nonfiction has its classics, though.

Thursday Three #41

  1. Now you can’t even go to a gas station without being bombarded by media. An Exxon near my apartment has gas pumps with a little TV inside them that shows (of course) the news (but fortunately not CNN). The only good thing about it is that it occasionally displays the word of the day (on Tuesday, that was “desiccated”).
  2. Has anyone used Medium? It’s a fairly new blogging tool that is geared toward journalists. I don’t think it has as many features as WordPress, but it does seem to be more user friendly and basic, like a bigger and cleaner version of Twitter.
  3. I now know where the rainbow ends… and it is unfortunately at the DMV!

Cult of Celebrity

SPOILER ALERT!

I’m not entirely sure why I picked up Caroline Zancan’s Local Girls from the library, but something written on the book jacket told me that it might be an interesting coming-of-age tale. The book took place over a single night, with its three main characters, 19-year-old Florida girls, sitting in a bar with drinks (why they are allowed to drink when they’re not of age is not explained very well) when a very well-known (fictional) celebrity, Sam Decker, randomly comes in and starts talking to them. For some reason (again, not fully explained), this triggers a series of flashbacks that make up the majority of the book and explain why a fourth girl is no longer the main characters’ friend anymore. Sam Decker ends up dying at the end of the night, so the fact that he spent his last night with ordinary girls was supposedly enormously significant, but I didn’t understand why.

Admittedly, the author is talented. I liked some of her insights about life and friendship, but I felt as though it was wasted when she was speaking in the voice of a character who supposedly graduated high school with “low B’s and high C’s, and even the stray D’s” and didn’t seem all that interested in college or ambitions beyond drinking with her friends and hanging out with a boyfriend who seemed far too good for her. I don’t think it would be realistic for such a character to have insights like that.

The other girls were portrayed similarly. They seemed to live for the celebrities they idolized from magazines and movies, which is why they were so enraptured when Sam Decker entered the bar. I’ve personally never understood the point of celebrity worship, so I couldn’t sympathize with these characters. I mean, if I saw Susan Lucci or some other famous person I like walking around in my town or at Walmart, I’d stare for a little bit, try not to stare, then go about my merry way. I’m not the type to run squealing up to a celebrity and beg for an autograph.

I am (I think) one of the few people who actually enjoys flashbacks in books, and the flashbacks were what made the book bearable to read. They brought the characters more to life and distinguished the girls from one another, but they didn’t make me feel sorry for the characters or put myself in their shoes. The flashbacks reminded me of hearing someone talk about drama that happened to someone else—there was too much distance, a “you had to be there” kind of feeling.

Overall, I felt like the book would have been better off as a short story or even a novella. If the author had written in a shorter form, she might have been forced to make the book less meandering and more punchy. She has a lot of talent, but it was wasted here. I wouldn’t recommend this book at all, and I don’t like saying that, but there are much better choices out there.