Sifting through my hoard – actually horde seems the appropriate spelling just now – of books, I come occasionally across a library book, and have a momentary pang of guilt, until I realise that it was an ex-library book which I acquired at a jumble/ boot/ tabletop sale somewhere, and not one that I have nicked. (The phrase ‘tabletop sale’ seems to have almost replaced ‘jumble sale’, the latter being insufficiently genteel, I suppose.)
But I do have a problem with libraries, or rather, they have a problem with me. I am very forgetful about returning books, and I suffer from a syndrome which I suspect, actually rather hope because I don’t want to be the only one, is familiar to many. There is a critical stage in the process of forgetfulness, at which point the realisation dawns that there is going to be a whopping fine. It would have been amusing until last year to add ‘practically the size of the National Debt’ here, but since that is now so large that even God would have a job reaching into the folds of his designer robes to pay, it isn’t worth risking the gag. (Note the sound of having and eating cake.)
Fines at libraries are very stiff, and rise incrementally until they more or less double the price of buying the book. But at the thought of actually going to the library, and actually returning them, something switches itself off in the head. The very thought of the shame of handing over late books to a librarian actually delays the process of returning them still longer. The fines mount. The pressure dogs the brain and body. And in the end you ask someone else in your household to take them back for you.
Why is that?