Sunday, May 31, 2009

Carded at the Library

I have had a library card almost all my life. I vividly remember struggling to learn how to write my name, just so I could have a library card of my own, instead of using my mama's. When we started RVing full time, I did not stop to think what that would mean, in terms of getting a library card. Apparently, most public libraries feel rather strongly that in order to get a card, one must prove residence in the applicable town.

Our driver's licenses show our address at our cabin, since that is where we live. However, since Wick still works in the Dallas area, we stay at an RV park during the week, so he doesn't have to drive so far every day. That means that the closest library is in Dallas. Dallas feels so strongly about "non-citizens" of Dallas that the fee for an outsider (that is, someone who has an address elsewhere) is $250 a year.

Two hundred fifty dollars a year. Y'all. That is exorbitant.

Now, after checking my billfold, I found the following cards:
Mesquite Public Library, from before we started RVing full time.
Chandler Public Library, where we live.
Tyler Public Library, because of a reciprocal deal with Chandler's library.
Seagoville Public Library, since I used to teach there.

Suddenly I remembered that shortly before I went into the hospital, I had filled out an application for the Dallas library, which offers a special deal for people who don't have a Dallas address, but do teach in Dallas.

Even though I had filled out the application, I had not received my card. I still have my teacher i.d., so I thought, why not check and see if I can still get the card.

When Wick got home from work, he took me to the nearest Dallas library branch.
I went to the first desk and explained to the tall, thin, stern-looking man who was sitting at the desk. I told him I had filled out the application at the school where I was teaching, but never received the card. He looked at me over the top of his glasses for a long moment. Finally,with a sigh, he turned to his computer and entered my name, after I spelled it for him three times. Somehow, he did not seem to want to look at my teacher i.d., which would have been easier on both of us, since either I was not speaking clearly or his hearing was impaired.

Finally, he announced in stern tones that I already had a library card.

I responded, yes, I had filled out the application, but did not receive the card.

He said again, the computer says you have a card.

I launched into an explanation about having filled out the application when a library representative came to the school, but I never received the card. I suggested that perhaps the card had been delivered to my mail box at school while I was in the hospital. Since a series of substitute teachers had been covering my classes, one of them might have accidentally picked up the card, but really I had no idea where it might have ended up.

Again, he said, the computer says you have a card.

Wick took me by the arm and steered me to another desk, where a lady was flipping through a magazine. When we got her attention, I explained my plight. She responded by turning to her computer.

She did deign to look at my i.d., and typed in my name correctly the first time.

She said, well, the computer says you already have a card.

Once more I launched into my story about how I applied, but did not receive the card itself.

She looked back at her computer screen, looked at me, and said again, the computer says you already have a card.

This conversation repeated itself about three more times. Wick finally stepped in and asked, how much does it cost to get a new card, if you lose your card?

She said, three dollars.

He pulled out his billfold.

She said, oh, wait a minute, maybe it is in the box of lost cards.

She pulled out a box that looked like it had about three hundred cards in it, and began to go through them.

Wick's patience was wearing thin. He drew three dollar bills out of his billfold, tapped them on edge on the counter, and said again, Just give her a replacement card.

I had my own card in my hot little hand.
I felt the same surge of pride and power that I felt when I was five years old, signing my name to get my first library card.

That little piece of card stock was my ticket to the universe. Through books, I could go anywhere, be anyone, learn everything.

It's fundamental.