Friday, August 14, 2015

Library Lament

I love a library.  I spent many an hour finding a weekly stack of books to bring home from the Summit Public Library when I was a kid, and while getting my graduate degrees of course had to become a resident of sorts of various university libraries.  And whereas every once in a while I think how nice it would be if there were a library version of Netflix where the next book on my “to read” list could just be sent to me when I need it, on the whole, I am a big fan of libraries as they are now.  And our neighborhood library in PA seems to really be an excellent one, with a good selection of books, and all sorts of programs scheduled daily and nightly.

All this is a preamble to justify what follows next:  a complaint about how I have yet to find a rhythm going to the library with Owen.  We go every two weeks or so and get a stack of books, but there is nothing about the process that is enjoyable.  Primarily it is probably my fault, in that Owen isn’t completely obedient in the library.  He likes using his library voice in the beginning of the trip, but he doesn’t like to stay by me while I look for books for him, and wants very much to take off at a sprint to certain displays that he finds intriguing, like the pirate ship and the water fountain and the free computers.  He won’t quite actually leave when I tell him to stay, but he will inch farther and farther away while getting more frustrated with me and louder and louder, saying things like, “I WAN’T TO BITE YOU!”  Fun times.

So anyway, should a 3 year-old be able to stay in one area when his mother tells him to do so?  Probably, although I don’t know this for sure.  But I’m certainly not blaming the library for this, only explaining why our visits there aren’t fun.  I’ve thought of going without him – and it is a very tempting scenario – but I want him to be used to going to the library weekly, and want him to look forward to doing so.

But here is the part where I do blame the library.  The kid section of our library consists of shelves with three layers of shelving, all very low down so that the kids have access.  Great.  But what 2 or 3 or even 4 year old is picking out her/his own books?  Maybe 4 and 5 year olds do, but I think even they have a lot of help from their parents.  So anyway, to try and find good books for Owen, I am generally on my hands and knees, or duck-walking in a squat, trying desperately and quickly to find books that Owen will like, while simultaneously keeping my eye on a cranky Owen who is inching pirate-ship-ward.  And to make matters worse, the bottom shelf is too short for the books to stand upright, so if you want to see books on the bottom shelf, you have to pull each one out by its spine and then push it back in.  Could not the shelves be higher?  With perhaps some sturdy stools to help the precocious toddler set?

I usually go armed with a list of great-sounding books recommended by my friend, Elisabeth, (a children’s lit professor!), and yet I can’t find most of the books on my list.  I’m sure some of them must be there, yet I get a cramp in my back or a crick in my neck before pulling out the correct book spine.  I know our library has a good computer system so perhaps I can order or reserve books from home?  I need to look into seeing if that is possible.

And one final complaint before I shall sign off and take my first-world problems with me.  Almost every single children’s book in that library stars an animal.  I am animal-obsessed myself, and always  have more pets than I can handle, but even I find myself  inwardly groaning, “Another animal?!”  Is there a particular reason all kids books have animals in them?  It is odd.


Juliana Ellington said...

You already know what might help: reserving the books that you want ahead of time! I bet your library offers that service, and it will save you miles of frustration. If you have a good stack ready and waiting, you can do the fun things that you want to do so that Owen can look forward to library time.
Good luck with all of this, and best wishes...Juliana

Elizabeth said...

Yes I definitely need to go to their website and get situated. It didn't really occur to me I could reserve things until I was writing this and then had a kind of "oh" moment. Most times too Sean comes and helps with the wrangling while I do the kneeling and crawling. But I shall look into reserving so I can find the fun books I keep seeing on Elisabeth's site!

Elisabeth Ellington said...

I hear you about the organization of the picture book bins. To find one book I'm looking for, I have to look through that entire letter of the alphabet--and sometimes still don't find what the catalog assures me is on the shelf. When I'm looking for specific titles, I definitely put holds on the books and make the librarians find them for me! But I also love the serendipity of discovery. The bins at my library are low, but there are stools that make the whole experience a bit more comfortable. I will say, as an adult who shops the kids section with no kids in tow, I expect and even kind of enjoy enthusiastic and loud children looking at books. Ignore the stern glares of cranky patrons who don't understand how children actually work! Also, so glad you find recommendations on my blog!