Stumbling On Happiness

December 24, 2008 at 12:44 am | Posted in Book Blather | 1 Comment

Things happen sometimes.  I understand that the folks who work at the library work very hard and for far less appreciation than they deserve.  Still, it sticks in my craw when they tell me I haven’t turned in a book and I know I have.  This happened last winter with Absalom, Absalom! – I turned it in, it wasn’t shown as returned, so I went and found it on the shelf, brought it to the front counter, and explained the situation.  For some reason, the result of this was that the book showed on my record as renewed.  I found it on the shelf again the next week, took it, and turned it in for the third time.  Finally, it worked.  So, when I turned in Stumbling On Happiness and it still showed I had it checked out, I thought it would be just that easy.

It wasn’t, though, as the book didn’t appear on the shelf.  I even looked for it in more than one branch.  My patron record showed “Claimed Returned,” a courtesy that meant at least I didn’t have to pay to replace it.  Still, all year long, every time I looked at my record, there it was.  “Claimed Returned.”  The mark of the disorganized, the penurious, the scoffers.  Several times various librarians mentioned it to me.  It felt like the Mark of Cain.

Then, suddenly, the note just disappeared.  I looked at the record for Stumbling On Happiness, and every copy was accounted for.  Where was the book all that time?  Who knows?  But I felt a little sunbeam pierce the clouds.  The irony of the title was not lost on me.  I had stumbled on happiness and all was right in my world once more.

I’ve been on the other end of this on at least two occasions.  Once it was The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (which I remember because I wound up turning it in unread and reading it later as an e-book).  The librarian will look surprised, and then say that the book was missing and that “somebody will be relieved.”  It just happens sometimes.  I do wish, though, that someone had thought to send me a little alert of some kind.

When I retire, the first thing I’m going to do is to go down to the library and volunteer to shelve books.  It’s always been a fantasy of mine.  Maybe I’ll be able to turn up more of these Claimed Returned books and send out a few sunbeams of my own.

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  1. When in college, I also lost a library copy of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin — and one I assumed was pretty valuable, as it was a second edition. The library never mentioned it to me, so I assumed it had turned up back there thanks to some kind soul, but I never quite had the nerve to ask.


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