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.