The Stamford Advocate (local daily newspaper)
“Your greed for library books knows no bounds,” my wife said to me the other day.
Note her choice of words. Not “love of books,” not “interest in learning,” nothing quite so noble. She called it greed. Probably because of the number of books stacked on my nightstand, overflowing onto the dresser, piling up on my desk, and lying on the living room sofa.
Yes, it’s true: I compulsively borrow books from the public library. Though I have to say that I’m impelled not by greed but by good intentions. I always intend to read what I borrow. And to finish reading before the due date, of course.
What follows is enough to make my “good intentions” story suspect. I'm lucky if I manage to get through even one of the books before they’re due. That’s because I start reading them at the last minute. So I simply renew them.
It's easy to do on the Web, too easy. In the bad old days, you had to lug all your books back to the library and ask the librarian to renew and stamp them one by one. Whenever I did that, I imagined the librarian was smirking inwardly at me and thinking, “Slacker! Can’t get through a puny 300-page book in three weeks!” If I couldn't read all the books in three weeks, what made me think I would do so in six? My irresponsible behavior was on display.
But now, thanks to modern technology, I just renew books remotely from my home, and no librarian need ever know. I doubt they're sitting in front of their monitors somewhere, looking at renewals, and when mine come up, saying, “There's that Arun again. As delusional as ever.”
Having renewed the books, I feel morally obligated to read them. Or to at least make a good-faith effort. But how? Time is limited.
I try skimming through the books. It doesn't work, because I go back and reread the passages I skipped. Which defeats the purpose of skimming.
I try speed reading. The result is that I absorb nothing.
Time management experts tell us that we should do things in order of their value to us. I guess that means I should rank my books from “Must read or suffer serious consequences” to “What was I thinking?” and attack the topmost one first. Easier said than done. They're all equally important – that’s why I picked them!
Somehow, the books get read.
By now you may be thinking that my obsession with the library indicates a lack of awareness of bookstores. Not true. I buy books all the time. I buy them and put them on bookshelves in my study, basement, and family room. Where they stay untouched, while I run to the library and take temporary possession of more of its bounties. And here's another admission: I never read the books I buy, while I read the books I borrow.
It’s all about the time-limit factor. The books I own can be perused at any time, but the books on loan come with a deadline. And I had better read them by that deadline. To reborrow a book simply because I couldn’t finish it the first time is to admit defeat.
So I start playing tricks on myself. If I want to read a book, I borrow it. Sometimes I end up borrowing books that I already possess.
I recently brought home a particular volume, read some of it, renewed it, and renewed it again. Later I found my very own copy that I had bought some two months before. It was sitting on my shelf.
At least this shows I'm not fickle. When I bought that book, I fully intended to read it. Two months later, I still did.
All the same, I have to give my wife her due. There may be an element of greed in my behavior. But here’s how I look at it: Greed for library books has got to be one of the most benign kinds of gluttony out there. It doesn’t make you sick, it doesn’t lead to financial harm, and having too much of it is not a bad thing.
Oh, by the way, did I mention the growing pile of library videos and DVDs?
Arun Sinha is president of Access Communications, a digital marketing, content creation and web development company in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. Visit http://www.accessc.com for more information on copy writing, websites, and Internet marketing.
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