Published: Feb 12, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Feb 12, 2013 04:49 PM
The first thing I did upon coming home from college for winter break was go to the library.
I hugged my parents, slapped my sisters briefly upside the head, and, as David Foster Wallace put it, (got) in a taxi and (said), The library, and step on it.
Walking into the Chapel Hill Public Library finalized my return home.
Every week when I was little, my mother would take my sisters and me to the public library, where we would dance gleefully close to the edge of the lending limit, checking out as many books as we could drag home.
In middle school, I had books instead of friends and the few friends I did have, I found in the library and have never returned. The first time I went to a middle school dance, I arrived laden with a bag full of library books, in case I felt bored and needed an activity. I have accumulated $90 in overdue fines (parents: to prevent this, do not let your child borrow 40 books and then go on a month-long vacation) and I have won awards for checking out more books than anyone in my high school (parents: to prevent this, make sure your child is not cripplingly antisocial).
Books have taught me bizarre facts, expanded my vocabulary in unexpected directions, showed me the power of irony, and revealed to me beauty in shades of black and white. I am continually thrilled by the existence of libraries and the opportunity they lend me to learn and grow and be entertained free of charge, for up to three weeks with the possibility of renewal.
However, in college, libraries regressed, becoming simply stifling opportunities for chair variation. At my university, we have six libraries, and I have sampled all of their chairs but none of their books. I can go to Mansueto Library to sit on wooden chairs and study, or to DAngelo Law Library to recline on black leather couches and study, or to Crerar Library to fold myself into a diner-style booth and study.
I assume I could check out books if I really applied myself and figured out where theyre keeping the novels and how to find the ones I want. Unfortunately, though, I havent had the time to take a break from studying and learn how.
Im an adult now nearly 18, but, like Holden Caulfield, I wish I were a kid again. I want to skip into the library with an empty book bag over my shoulder and discover alternate universes between parallel lines of print. Instead, I find myself surrounded by all these dumb phonies typing away at their dopey laptops while sitting on some bourgie chair in the nicest, emptiest gosh darn library Ive ever seen.
As Holden says, certain things
should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know thats impossible, but its too bad anyway.
It really is.Maya Handa is a freshman at the University of Chicago.
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