Monday, December 12, 2005
November 18, 2005 - Library
I take some time off this afternoon, and drive to my hometown of Toms River, to the main branch of the Ocean County Library. I could have saved time and gone to our local branch in Point Pleasant Beach, but a couple of church members work behind the circulation desk, and I don’t want it to be generally known what sort of books I’m checking out these days. It’s a small town, after all. And besides, I tell myself, the collection at the main branch is larger, anyway.
I nearly don’t make it into the library. The entrances are barricaded, and I see evident signs of construction as I look through the glass. I dimly recall having read in the paper about a major renovation project at the library’s main branch, that would close the place completely for several weeks. I start back to my car, but then rethink that decision. I reverse course and walk further around the building, just to make sure. When I do, I find that a side entrance door is unlocked, and the library is open for business after all. The library staff has done an incredibly poor job of putting up signs announcing that the place is still open.
Feeling anger boil within me, I compose myself and walk up to a woman working behind the circulation desk. There is no sign posted outside, I say to her, and doesn’t she know that patrons are probably turning around going back home, thinking the library is still closed? Please do something to make sure some kind of sign goes up, I said to her, politely but firmly – but probably with suppressed anger in my voice.
"It’s not my job," she says curtly, in response. There were some signs, she explains, but they blew away in yesterday’s high winds. I think to myself how easy it would have been for her to take a marker and a piece of paper and tape a hand-lettered sign to the inside of the glass.
"That may be," I persist, "but that doesn’t help people coming here from out of town. I drove a half hour to get here, and very nearly turned around and went home!"
"I know, it’s a problem," she admits, feebly.
"Well, please make sure a sign goes up," I say, and stride past her into the main part of the library – thinking unkind thoughts to myself about the bureaucratic mentality that leads people to hide behind lame excuses like, "It’s not my job."
Where had my anger come from? I hadn’t been feeling angry, on a conscious level, as I made my way to the library. Yet, somewhere beneath the surface, I was evidently seething at the injustice of my situation. The anger emerged, transforming me into Lancelot of the Library, righting wrongs on behalf of book-lovers everywhere.
After a quick glance at the library catalog on a computer terminal, I go upstairs and find several shelves filled with books on the subject of cancer. Easily half the titles are about breast cancer (why that variety of cancer is deemed so much more worthy of either publishers’ or acquisition librarians’ attention, I can’t say). But there are some good general books as well. Unlike the plethora of breast-cancer books, there is not one volume dedicated exclusively to lymphoma.
I am looking especially for memoirs by cancer survivors. In these days before I’m comfortable showing my face in any support groups, I’m feeling an urgent need to listen to the voices of others who have traveled this road before me.
I carry a whole stack of books to a comfortable chair in one corner of the stacks area, and begin to skim through them. With the technically-oriented volumes, I discard those with a copyright date of more than a few years ago (science is changing so rapidly, I reason, they’re probably outdated). I’m a bit more flexible when it comes to the personal memoirs. While some of the descriptions of drugs and technical procedures may be outdated, the human emotions of dealing with the disease surely aren’t.
After returning home and engaging in some testy responses with Claire over inconsequential things, it occurs to me that I’m still feeling deeply angry about all of this. Normally, I enjoy research, but there are so many other subjects I’d rather spend time looking into than this one.