Thursday, February 26, 2009

Something Queer at the Library

Do you remember the "Something Queer" mysteries by Elizabeth Levy? These young mysteries feature two girls named Jill and Gwen, and I remember that one of them owns a basset hound, and one of them keeps tapping on her braces when she contemplates clues. Anyway, Something Queer at the Library is actually one of the titles, and I thought of the book the other day when I ran into, well, something queer at the library.

I love libraries. A feeling of well-being descends on me when I enter one, as if I've been able to step out of the everyday world of cares and into a pause. I get excited about research, about books I know I'm going there to get, and about books I'll just stumble upon. Even so, these days I usually put my books on hold online and just pick them up at the library -- or, to 'fess up completely, send my husband, who goes absolutely willingly. In fact, he and the library ladies have a running joke about how I've sent him over to pick up my books yet again. Once I showed up to get my own books, and they were shocked. I think they were disappointed, too. :) So now I tell DH (these are his initials, actually), "You have to go get my books, dear. It's you the library staff want to see."

But the other day I was in the library. It's a good date place for DH and me, and we were due (for a date and the library). First, I browsed the YA section. It's smaller than the MG section, so I feel like I can get a better overall sense of what's there. So what's there? More books and authors that I have never heard of than ever before. Browsing those shelves, I felt hardly different than I felt as a new writer starting out eleventy-nine years ago. "Wow, I've never heard of this book." "Wow, who is this writer?" "How can I read as much as I read and feel so far behind?"

In the MG section, it's harder to find new books among the old. But amid well-known titles and old favorites I did find a number of more recent books and authors that I've never heard of. In no time I had gathered a stack too big to carry, as is my wont (no queer experience there), and taken them to the checkout desk because when my arms are that full, where else can I go?

And yet I'm reading what percentage of what's being published? 2%? Twenty years ago, reading a professional article about books or talking books with another writer or avid reader was apt to yield a lot of common references --kind of the way English Lit students get Shakespeare references or biblical students get Bible references. Now, if another children's writer asks me if I've read such-and-such by so-and-so, I'm not only likely to say no, I'm fairly likely to say, "I never heard of it."

Maybe I need to go back to the library more often and see the actual shelves. But the really queer thing at the library the other day was that I almost decided I prefer to hear about new titles online and just put them on hold at the library. Because it's getting harder to dig them out of the myriad of physical books, which I'm rather nonplused to find so unfamiliar after all this time in the field.

The times they are a-changin', but this change is really, well, queer.

13 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

I hear you. I love hearing about titles online and knowing what I want before I go shopping.

Brenda said...

I agree...I love the library and I love the way stress of the world seems to be left at the door, but I do a lot of my research of new books online or through blog readings, etc...I want too many and I get off track (and lose all concept of time) when I'm allowed to search the shelves myself...grin...

Anne Spollen said...

I actually like the way there are so many books for MG and YA now -- it makes me feel if I don't like the lastest book that's been recommended, I can just go dive in for more. And it gives me more time at the library.

And it's funny - I like to hold the books and look at the cover before I select it. I almost never order them online.

Tabitha said...

So, so true. I read at least one book each week, often two, and I'm still baffled by how many authors and books I've never heard of.

On the one hand, I think it's great that there's so much out there for kids that age. But on the other, it's overwhelming when you're trying to do research. :)

Kim Kasch said...

Don't remember that series but I soooo love the library. My husband and I hang out there often. Our children's library is super-dee-duper cool. Check it out here:
”Library”

Candace Ryan said...

I love the concept of the library as a date place!

Maybe I can shoot to have one with my hubby in mid-March, when my current books expire.

Marcia said...

PJ -- I do too. I love making a list of what I'm going to put holds on.

Brenda -- Amen on choosing too many and losing track of time. I literally can hardly carry it all to the checkout.

Anne -- I like that there are books for all tastes. And there's nothing like the physical book.

Tabitha -- I've been known to go to bookstores with money or a gift card to spend and leave without a purchase because I can't narrow it down.

Kim -- That is great! I love the inventiveness I've seen lately in the children's departments.

Candace -- Hope you do just that!

Mary Witzl said...

I'm with Anne here: I want to see the book, skim it, hold it in my hand -- that's how I decide whether I want to go to the trouble of reading it or not. The only exceptions are books that I've read great reviews of, especially on the blogs of people I believe I can trust, 95% of which I desperately want to read...

Eleventy-nine years ago, eh? That's exactly how many years ago I was a new writer!

Mary Witzl said...

And yes -- there are so many new authors out there now. Eleventy nine years ago, I seem to remember there was only a fraction of today's number. Though it's hard remembering back that far...

Marcia said...

Mary -- I guess I choose more by somebody's recommendation on the Internet now, more than the physical book, although I love books. I guess it is that there are more authors now. I know, I want to read 95% of recommended books, too. Internet postings ARE enough to keep me in books.

Nora MacFarlane said...

I love the library, but the choices overwhelm me. I like having recommended titles in my head before I go. My 2b read pile is huge!

Marcia said...

Nora -- I think I'll always have way too much, whether I go to the library or put books on hold for pickup. Choices in the library and bookstores both overwhelm me.

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