Sunday, April 03, 2011

Book Smart

Last night I had a dream that I was back shelving books at the university library that I used to work at. When I woke up today, I really felt like going to the library! And so I did (the city one, though). It was the perfect thing to do on a Saturday with no money.

The main branch is located downtown. The bus there stops right across the street from my apartment; it takes about 15 minutes to get downtown, plus a 5-minute walk once I arrive. Perfect! It's funny, I was never really aware of downtown Austin in the DAYTIME when I lived here for over 20 years before. Going out at night, yes, but not in the day. (My former workplaces were either the university or driving 20 miles North or South. There was never really any reason to go downtown in the daytime.) It's really pretty around Congress Ave. Lots of shops, outdoor cafes, benches everywhere, people roaming about.

As for the main library: Before this spring, I think I'd been there maybe ONCE since 1983! Up until 2000, when I quit, I always had access to the university library (which has something like 6 million books -- one of the biggest in the country). And from 2000 to 2007, when I moved to NYC, I don't know WHAT I was doing for reading material... probably just buying from Amazon and eBay. That's a pretty long stretch of not going to a library! (In NYC and then Weehawken, I did have library cards for both, but checked out maybe 10 books in 3 years. Too busy sightseeing, looking for work, and crying, I suppose!)

Anyway, I'm now in love with the main Austin library! As mentioned, the bus trip and scenery are both pleasant. And the atmosphere in there is a nice one: It's quiet, stuff is shelved where it's supposed to be, the staff has been uniformly nice and helpful. (I also get a weird sense of calm when I watch the shelvers there... If you're not anal like me, then you will never know how good it feels to get those books re-shelved in the proper place! I'm actually considering applying for a part-time job there, under 10 hours a week -- shelving might bring peace, but only when done in small increments. After that, it gets mind-numbingly dull and you have to keep stopping to read to break up the tedium.)

I feel content the whole time I'm there -- plus, at the end, I come home with a treasure-trove of stuff... FOR FREE! It's like shopping, when you feel like you're selecting things that are somehow the Very Essence of You, but... FOR FREE!

After reading lots of Anne Sexton-stuff lately, and a bio of Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell kept coming up. (His "Life Studies" initially influenced Sexton, and he was a longtime friend of Bishop's.) While I'd read "Life Studies" maybe 25 years ago, it was time to re-read, plus learn more about his life (the only things I already knew were that he came from a good family, held the workshop where Plath and Sexton met, and had multiple manic-depressive episodes). And then I've been hearing a lot about recently deceased author Stieg Larsson lately (but have never read him), so got "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and a new bio. The one Joan Crawford bio I've never read, by Charlotte Chandler, came out a couple of years ago -- from the reviews, it sounded run-of-the-mill, so I never bothered buying it... but, thanks to the library, I can now READ it! Oh, and then there's Liz-and-Dick! (Note from the photo which book of all of these I immediately started reading once I got home!) :)

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