One of the last things I did at work this year was an inventory of the Upper School fiction collection. I was starting the S’s and got to perhaps my favorite Salinger work:
When I opened up the back cover to scan the bar code, I saw a note card peeking out of the book pocket.
So of course I took a break from inventory to pull the card out and read out. Who wouldn’t read a secret note in a library book?
I think my favorite par about old books is the last page. The very last thing you see upon ending the story is s breif list of everyone who has read it before you. Durring yoga they compare us students to lotus flowers each with infinite roots sprawling and interconnecting with everyone else who has ever or will practice yoga. I think a book is the same way. Everytime you read a book it becomes part of you the same way a particularly poingnante memory will stick in your mind for years, affecting every memory that suceeds it. if you have read this book it means you are just a little bit closer to Celest Souder, tina Hamrin todd abernathy and kate crowly [the names on the checkout card]. And many others, identity concealed by the barcode on the right . . . I suppose im rambling. Just thought Ide say something as a awake too early today and have a full hour before I have to get to school.
There’s a certain romance of library books that comes from knowing so many other people have read the book. In this case it is a first edition of the book, so decades of students have held it in her hands. As the anonymous note-leaver implies, some of that romance has been lost in the digital age when we can’t see the names of those who have checked out the books before us. Of course I appreciate the importance of privacy of reading choices, but who doesn’t love looking at at least the due dates stamped in the back of the book?
Part of me didn’t want to share this little note, and I wonder if the writer would be bothered that I did. After all, though the joy comes from the shared experience of reading, there is also something intimate about it: like the book is a note passed from one person — indeed one generation — to the next.
Maybe that’s the solution, the way to hold onto that mystery even as our reading experience gets more automated: little notes just like this one surreptitiously tucked into library books. A way to say we are all connected by the words we read. One more way to create a community of readers.