Friday, 11 March 2016

Reveries of libraries, the twelfth : LOAN RANGES



 Philip Harvey

There is a geology library that loans rocks. The cataloguing of pumice, gneiss, dolomite, sandstone, slate &c. is a creative act, as is the application of the barcode. Hours of reading pleasure as geologists study items unavailable in the field. Return to the counter, not through the window.

Skeletons as teaching aids are loaned out from some libraries. Cats are fairly easy to manage but humans are ungainly and you don’t want parts to drop off on public transport.

Some art libraries loan large framed pictures. Students of Cubism take Braques on their backs for closer angular analysis at home. Borrowers keep a feature wall for location of new paintings added to the library collection. The connoisseur may convert her spare room into the Sistine Chapel, saving on air costs.

Culinary libraries loan cake tins and everyday gadgets for cutting, creasing, plunging, stirring and whipping. The trend though to providing all implements mentioned in cookbooks on adjacent library shelves has seen a glut of empanada forks, cucumber infusers, heart-shaped sandwich presses, ravioli rolling pins, spice bombs, &c. across the industry that has driven some librarians to ask for a review of practice. Nor can librarians be blamed if the cake burns, as it were, accusations that have only fanned the flames of this debate.

The same may be said of music libraries. Borrowers grateful for the loan of the Fender Stratocaster cannot blame the librarian for bad tuning or broken strings. The library cannot promise an instant hit. Smashing the guitar over the library counter in protest does not make you Pete Townshend and you will be billed for a replacement within fourteen days, of guitar and counter.

A bad tradesman blames the librarian rather than his tools. It doesn’t matter how well a tool library is maintained, someone will complain. Dig deep and take a break.

A library in Canada loans people. This is somewhat different from the above as people talk back at the borrower and may even refuse to be returned on the due date. People on loan have been known to fall in love with their borrower, and sometimes the feeling is reciprocated, leading to complications with circulations officers who want their person back now and anyway their person is reserved all of next week.

The risk of non-compliance only escalates with the library cat. Cats on loan can freak out and hide under a dresser, rather than sit curled in the borrower’s lap. They are indifferent to the silly twelve-point rules of mere humans, choosing to sleep when they should be prancing and prancing when they should be bookend-like. Cats prefer their familiar territory, for which reason library cats are best kept in the library, where they pass the time looking Egyptian.

The book ate my dog is the likely excuse that canine librarians will hear, more often than anyone could imagine possible. Again, leave them sleeping where they lie.

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