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Jack Zaleski, Published November 26 2011

Zaleski: Readers love old, elegant libraries

If the response to last week’s column about my hometown library is any guide, benign library book theft is epidemic. If there were library cops (ala “Seinfeld”), they would be very busy, at least with readers of The Forum.

Here’s a sample of what readers had to say about their libraries:

Taking off on my description of the staid traditional New Britain, Conn., library of my youth, an online reader from Bozeman, Mont., wrote:

“We need a cologne for book lovers capturing the smell and solemnity and history of a ‘real’ library … eau de books … or such. You’ve reminded I have an overdue skull from my medical school stuffed in a closet … decades overdue. Shall return it tomorrow, lest its original owner begins to pester me.”

From a reader who not only liked the column but also dug up a photograph of the old New Britain library and sent it by email:

“I, too, miss the warm tones of my old library,” LC wrote. “It was dark, very quiet and built like a fortress. It imparted a feeling of sanctuary, rather than the fishbowl feeling that seems to be a hallmark of much modern architecture.”

Another emailer said she loved the column and added:

Oh, by the way, I still have a couple of library books from when I was in high school.”

From a colleague in The Forum’s newsroom:

“I still owe the Minot (N.D.) Public Library for an LP (how’s that for dating myself?) – the soundtrack of ‘How the West Was Won.’ I tried to return it, but it was after-hours, and I didn’t want to put it in the night box for fear it might get broken. Somehow it ended up in my possession for the duration. My guilt kept me from getting a library card again until I moved to Manchester (Conn.). I ended up with fines due there at one point, and the librarian said, ‘If it weren’t for people like you, we’d never make any money.’ That made me feel better.”

And this from a woman who called from rural Minnesota:

“I read your column and laughed out loud because our mother would always tell us kids to get those library books back on time. She was really tough about that, so we did.

“Then, I was cleaning up a storeroom, and I found two books with that stamp on the ends from my local library of my childhood. I was shocked. I half expected my mother (she’s been gone for 30 years) to be looking over my shoulder and scolding me. Next time I’m back in my hometown, I’ll return the books to the library – if it’s still there. Small town, you know … not much left …”

To lovers of musty, dim and elegant old libraries everywhere, good reading.


Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.