I work in what I like to call a near urban library. There are advantages and disadvantages to not working in an urban, downtown library.
An advantage, for instance, is that someone peeing all over a section of our shelving is more of a special occasion than just a routine issue.
A disadvantage is our lack of history. Oh, we have a little history, like the pub that once preceded our library and sent ghost fumes of beer into the stacks in the seventies and eighties, but nothing to get really excited about.
This morning a library return came through us and it was not the kind of material we get to see very often. It was a book belonging to the Minneapolis Athenaeum, which in itself is a strange historical library artifact from the mid 1800s that now exists as a partner in the Minneapolis/Hennepin Library system. The book we got wasn't that old, but it was certainly far older than our library system. The first checkout stamp on it was from 1938, but the pocket that held the due date card was where the real fascination lay. It included all the library's rules and threats:
"Any person who shall mark, mutilate or otherwise injure this book, is liable by law to a heavy fine, or to a term of imprisonment, and in addition is liable to the Library for its full retail value"
I love that. A little underlining and bam, you get a couple weeks in prison, or a hundred dollar fine, and you still have to replace the book, which back then could run you, oh, maybe $2.50, which was a lot! It was still the depression.
But sometimes I see a family messily breaking out a picnic in the kids room, or some guy bodily seizing control of the copy machine for the rest of the day, or a couple of teens raging a pitched battle across the library, or a patron loudly conducting business on their cell phone, or a shelf is reported to smell of pee, and a faint feeling of yearning comes over me. Sometimes a book comes back and it has, yes, underlining, underlining!, and I get a little wistful for the olden days, brutal as they were.