Monday, November 18, 2019

On library time

Black holes are well known for their strange effect on time. If one has heard about gravitational time dilation once, one has heard about it a thousand times. But having had a quarter century of my life swallowed up into the irresistible maw of a public library I am aware that it is not only black holes that have a unique effect on time.

In short, time acts with extreme peculiarity in and around libraries. And it doesn't take a deeply invested library professional like myself to see it. You yourself have undoubtedly at some point checked out a book at a library only to find out a couple of days later that the book is now fourteen days late.

"How is this possible?" You wonder.

"I must have made a mistake." You rationalize.

You didn't make a mistake.

Oh, you will never catch time in the act of mischief at a library. Time always has an alibi. But alibis are not the same thing as innocence.

I'm just saying that here at my library I'm skipping around in its curious time like it's Slaughterhouse Five. And I am not alone.

Today at the front desk a regular came up to me and greeted me with real warmth.

"Hey, it's great to see you. I haven't been here for ages! Do I still have a card in this system?"

I was slightly worried his mind was slipping. "I'm pretty sure it's only been a few weeks since I last saw you."

"No, I don't think I've been here since the new building." That would put it at maybe ten years since his last visit.

Ten years, three weeks? We regarded each other curiously for a moment. Then we moved on and caught up on things. What was to argue? We were both right.

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