Monday, May 29, 2006

Visiting the library

is always fun. I've been visiting libraries all my life and indeed one regret I have is of having walked past the New York Public Library on 42nd Street one Sunday afternoon and NOT walking in. I hope I'll have the opportunity some time of correcting that particular lapse of judgement.

There's something about walking into a library, especially a familiar one, and smelling the books and knowing that over there are the dictionaries, over there the catalogue and thataway are the novels.

The first public library I joined was the Footscray one, located on Buckley Street Footscray, just up the road from the public baths and Harry Hanks pawnshop. I think I've already mentioned it but I faced the most incredible opposition to my joining from Misery Guts; he was concerned that I'd lose a book and he'd have to pay for it. Much pleading on my behalf by Mum and eventually he relented and I became a proud member. For the record I never lost a single book and the only cost he incurred by my being a member was the cost he incurred anyway by being a ratepayer!

I waited until my greencard arrived before joining the Phoenix Public Library. Not a long wait; the card was in my hot little hand two weeks after I arrived in the US. Got my social security card within 7 days of filling out the paperwork (and that was done the day after I arrived).

Libraries have changed a bit since I was a kid. Back then they dealt with books and newspapers and that was pretty much it. Not so these days! The Phoenix Public Library has about 9000 DVD's, an unchecked upon because I don't care number of VHS tapes and 15000 CD's in addition to the books and newspapers aforesaid! Add in the maps and directories and you're talking a pretty considerable body of catalogued knowledge!

The internet may be a great resource which I use frequently but there's still nothing quite like holding a real, bound, book in your hands! There's also the question of just which pages from a search can be relied upon.

There's one big difference I've noticed visiting the Phoenix library compared to my memories of Australian libraries. I'm assuming this isn't unique to the Phoenix library. Most days there are people sitting outside the entrance to my local branch with a card table set up, pushing either a petition or a voting register. As we approach the mid term elections in November it's going to get worse! :-)

For a while there I was badgered during each approach; was I registered voter? Uh no, I'm not even a citizen yet. I note that once or twice that objection has been brushed aside as irrelevant. One of the questions they ask in the naturalisation petition is 'Have you ever registered to vote in any Federal, state or local election in the United States?' (Part 10, A 2). Although I've seen some very vague references to non citizens being able to vote in local elections I've never been able to track down the specifics. If you think I'm silly enough to register to vote when I don't believe I'm eligible then let's talk financing for a cold fusion project!

As my hair grew longer the badgering decreased. This is a red state; should I draw an inference that Republicans don't like long haired middle aged men?

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