We go to the library.

I am addicted to the library.

I had forgotten how great libraries are. Ever since the Toddler joined, we have been going pretty well every week. She looks for her Toddler books, whilst I get out piano music and books about space. It is brilliant. So far this month alone I have learnt to play ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ badly, and read one and a half books about space. For free.

As we are in the big town, going to the market, I decide that a special treat is in order.

“Guess what?” I tell the Toddler. “I have a special surprise treat for you!”

“What is it, daddy?” she asks, her Toddler face agog, like when I take the chickens out some spaghetti.

“As we’re here, instead of the normal library, we’ll go to the big library instead!” I announce.

Her face falls a bit. But it is just as good as the zoo, sweets etc.; she just has to come to terms with it.

We go to the big library. I have never been to the big library before, and am full of anticipation. I shoo the Toddler off to the children’s section and go to find some books about space. We meet up ten minutes later, beside Crime, and go to check out our books.

There is no helpful lady at the book check-out place. This is disconcerting. I hover for a bit, waiting for a helpful lady, like they have in libraries.

A man passes me with a couple of books. He walks up to a machine, puts in his card, and starts waving the books at it. There are beeping noises. With a sinking feeling I realise that I am in the presence of an automatic library machine.

“Where’s the lady?” asks the Toddler.

“She is not here,” I reply. “There is an automatic library machine. Give me your books, and we will do it this way.”

I add her books to mine, and insert my card. The machine instructs me to wave the books at it. I open the books one by one, bending them back at the spine to expose the bar code. There is a sort of open drawer, with a laser. I wave the books at it.

“Error!!! Error!!!” the machine says. I wave the books around again.

“This is bizarre,” I tell the Toddler. “I know I like books about space, but this is like being in the future. Except it’s not the future. It’s like what they thought the future would be like in 1962.”

“You what, daddy?” says the Toddler.

“Error!!! Error!!! Could not parse book!!!” says the machine.

I wave the books again, getting quite cross. “Error!!! Error!!! Seek humanoid assistance!!!” yells the machine.

I find a library lady, who patiently scans the books in with her personal barcode reading device, in the traditional way like libraries have always done. It is very quick and simple. Automatic library machines are shit, and whoever installed them should be made to read ‘On the Road’ repeatedly whilst strapped to a shelf of Catherine Cooksons and pelted with tins of globe artichokes.

We are both disappointed in our big treat day out. I will take her to the normal library next time.

26 Comments

  1. I wonder if the big library has a copy of The Machine Stops.

  2. Infuriating isn’t it? My grocery store is the same way. What used to be an agreeable, civilized marketplace now resembles Dante’s ninth circle of Hell, or a drivers’ licence bureau, complete with creaming, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Brave new world indeed.

    Say what you will about the Daleks, at least the buggers were efficient. (Though they first appeared in ’63, not ’62)

  3. Obviously, that was supposed to be screaming, and not some awful dairy-related pun.

  4. I am in the big library in Crewe now. Automatic library machines we do not have. We have nice people like Emma, who is a bit foxy.

  5. We have automtic library machines even in the small library. But they are different in two differnt libraries, so if you take the books back to a differnet library to the one you got them from the machines don’t work.

    Also sometimes they lie.

  6. Wot is this lie brrrarrry you speak of? I have a gadget that downloads books from the ether although I’m both nerdlick and cheap so the books downloaded are mostly classics such as Samuel Pepys endless journal and a series of 1920’s mysteries (hint – the foreigner did it. And the diamonds are paste). I haven’t explored the space book potential but what with the ether thing and all it’s got to be pretty good.

  7. Did the machine wave it’s arms about, ignoring you and shouting excitedly “Danger, ToddlerD, danger”? I’ve seen that film.

    May I take this opportunity to officially retire “AndyB”, and become “ajb1605”, as I’m following you on Twitter and some git has already got AndyB on there? I’d only get confused.

  8. And how went the dentist?

  9. if i read 3 books a week from the library rather than buying them, i’d get my council tax back. Instead i choose not to read or buy books at all.

  10. Amazon’s easier. You don’t even have to go out. The second-hands are AGAN.

  11. Funny how the other guy could use the library machine quite easily. Almost as if you were some sort of hopeless incompetent incapable of mastering any mechanical task more complex than poking a termite mound with a stick.

    Wait, no… what’s the word? Ah yes – not “Almost”. “Exactly”. That’s the one I was looking for…

  12. Bye, AndyB.

    Hullo ajb1605 and welcome!!! OK thanks, until the Toddler decided she needed a dump.

    I may go to Crewe now for my books, if there is a librarian there called ‘Emma’ who is a bit foxy.

    The thing about the daleks was that – say what you like about them – the trains on Skaro always ran on time.

  13. Exactly! Even during the Big Blackout of 5079, they had enough cheap Thal labour to push the trains along. It’s a different world, now, though…

    ~ waves barrel of Disintegrator ruefully ~

  14. In Oxford Central Library (still essentially operating in the late 1970s, but none the worse for it) they currently have a sign asking you to alert the staff if your books are being returned ‘from a household where swine flu is present’. I think they then get autoclaved or incinerated or something. Not quite sure how this process could be automated.

  15. How lovely to be associated with, and in the company of, devotees of a literary giant – nay, genius – such as Terry Nation.

  16. The thing that really gets me is this. At one point you could disrupt their plans by diverting the bomb aimed for the Earth’s core so that it didn’t make the planet into a giant spaceship after all, but just exploded, taking the mine apart and destroying their own craft in the process. And they’d take that on the chin, regroup, then return in a while and be a bit exterminatey.

    Now, one whiff of interference and they’re on the phone to the lawyers.

    Joella: couldn’t they sneakily identify people easily by putting a couple of volumes of ‘Swine Flu – 1001 easy cures’ on the shelves, and seeing who took it out?

  17. Ooh, that reminds me, my books are due back tomorrow. You don’t want to get fined nowadays – it’s a quite alarming sum. Three days and you could buy at least two of the books.

  18. We have a nasty, lank, greasy haired girl in our local library, she is miserable and dour and hates children, in fact I think she may eat the odd one occasionally. I’d swap her for a Darlik any day!

  19. Much like my first “big library” experience.
    I much prefer the tiny ones in the tiny towns that don’t have any of the books that I want but provide me with that amazing non-sterile tiny library feeling.

    I’m enjoying your blog, thank you =]

  20. Hullo Auma and welcome… and thank you!!!

  21. I keep want to start this comment with ‘good’ or ‘nice’ or ‘great’ but none of these seems strong enough, or appropriate enough for what you just posted.Just fantastic and mindblowing blog keep it up..!!!

  22. Oh I love the library 😀 but I absolutely hate thos machines, we have them here as well…

  23. They’ve started with the automated machines over in Manchester’s fashionable Westside. You use them with a barcoded fob thing that you attach to your keyring like a supermarket Clubcard. It is all very efficient but I too feel a visit to the library is incomplete without any dealings with the friendly librarian lady, so I often find myself sidling up to their desk on the way out to make some entirely unnecessary enquiry.

  24. A similar thing happened to me…I took my books to the ‘helpful lady’ who turned out to be neither of those things! She told me I had to use the electronic machine thingy.

    I hurrunphed my way over while a spotty youth on work experience hovvered over me! I tried to read the instructions on the display..spotty youth chimed in “Can I help you?”…”No thank you, I can do it, I just need to read the instructions”. I carried on reading them step by step but got the same irritating bleeps that you did, with spotty trying to grapple my books from me so he could show me how it’s done!

    Turns out the machine was knackered, spotty looked on the verge of tears as I retraced my steps to the unhelpful witch at the counter!

  25. Hang on. That didn’t rhyme.

    You are a bogus fake poet!!! I have exposed you!!!

  26. does that make me ‘the naked poet’!?

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