Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hide It Under a Bushel?

So I was running errands today, and I happened to be driving from the Headquarters Branch of the County Library to the laundromat I frequent near home, when on an in-this-case convenient stretch of road that I have seldom traveled before now, I passed this sign. I suppose I had halfway noticed it before, but it caught my attention more than usual today. Now that I am using the city's Public Library more than I formerly did, it surprised me to discover a branch even closer to home than the Buder Branch, which I ordinarily frequent. I actually live within a short walk of two branches. Who knew?

One of the things that caught my eye was the name of the branch, though I had to ask how to pronounce it. (My guess was "Mah Tcha Seck." The library ladies' kind correction was "Mack-a-Check.") I perked up at the name because, by a weird coincidence, the library book that I had with me, that I planned to return to the Buder Branch after picking it up there at the hold desk on Tuesday, originated at the Machacek Branch. I had never dreamed that I would have walked a mile to one library only to pick up a book requested from another library only half a mile from my home. So, during a lull in my laundering activities, I walked up to the Machacek Branch to return the book.

My second surprise was that, having found the sign marking the library's location, I still had trouble finding the library. From the street, even at a season when the trees aren't as leafed out as in the photo, the sign was easy to see but the building was not. To one side of the sign was an alley that seemed to run straight across the block to the next street over, without any other visible outlet. To the other side, the entrance to a parking lot serving no visible purpose, except perhaps as overflow parking for the Baptist Church on the next block. Between these two landmarks there wasn't much to see except a grassy mound, crowned with what appeared to be tennis courts girdled in chain-link fencing. (This turned out to be the roof of the building.)

Only by venturing around a bend in the low hill (just for purposes of exploration) can one discover a stairway descending into a gap in the hillside, sheltered by a concrete barrier that makes it difficult to see what one is approaching until one reaches the bottom of the steps. Then, suddenly, appears the entrance of a single-story building, built like a nuclear-attack bunker. The resemblance grows even stronger when one enters the building. It's gloomy, tiny, and drab. It can't possibly have much of a collection. The space is crammed with shelves, computer desks, and other libraraphernalia.

I returned my book. During my walk up the street from the laundromat, I had decided to look for a particular book. I settled down at one of the catalog computers and searched for the book. I learned that there was exactly one copy of it in the city's Public Library system. And that one copy, which the catalog assured me was currently available, lives at the Buder Branch. I could hardly believe it. In seven years of visiting the Buder Branch (more and more frequently of late), I have never before found a title I was looking for at that branch. I have always had to request a hold and pick it up there when it was delivered from another branch. And now, my first time searching at another branch... Buder.

I requested the hold for pick-up at the Buder Branch, finished my laundry, and headed straight to Buder. I reckoned it would either be waiting for me behind the counter or, more likely, still on its shelf. Buder, in stark contrast to the Machacek Branch, is a sparkling, modern building of three stories, brilliantly lit by sunlight through its numerous windows, and very visibly sited on a street corner within plain sight of one of the busiest intersections in the neighborhood. Naturally, the book I was searching for was meant to be shelved on the third floor. I huffed and puffed up the steps and looked in the section I thought the book would belong in—book 2 of a series I haven't read past book 1—but although I found book 3 right where I expected to find book 2, I did not find the title I wanted. I enlisted the aid of some friendly library ladies. They checked the computer, the returns cart, the holds desk, and a couple of other places where the book might have been shelved... but no joy.

I did come home with an armload of other library books that I "impulse shopped" as I was stalking my quarry. And the front desk staff told me they would keep looking for it. But for the moment, Buder Branch seems to have struck out once again in the game of having the title I'm looking for. Funny how these things work out.

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