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Oh, the places books go!

June 12, 2012

By Gretchen Stern

While closing up my latest borrowed library book, I became fixated on the library check-out card glued to the inside back cover.  I scanned the return dates stamped on the left hand side, noticed how the time between these dates sometimes spanned several months, while in other cases showed a gap of only a week or two.  Like reading the rings on a tree, I felt I was peeking into this book’s history, tracing its path from reader to reader. This person appeared to consume and return the book quite quickly, only for another patron to scoop it off the shelf immediately. Whereas during this larger gap of time, someone appears to have lingered with the book or perhaps the book itself lingered on the shelf, waiting to be noticed and desired.

A check-out card is a book’s passport, collecting stamps with each journey it makes. Sometimes its travels send it into a book bag or backpack, where it’s jostled and bounced as it mingles with textbooks, pencils, or a laptop. Other times it’s cradled, placed gently by the bed side to be visited each night before sleep. And even others, the book visits other lands – beaches, where it’s read with sunscreen-covered hands; plane rides at 30,000 feet; or park benches in foreign cities.

When CLiF sponsors a library, we donate $2,000 worth of brand new books for its patrons. If only the books that CLiF donates could tell us stories of their travels! We hear great anecdotes about kids lining up to sign up for a library card, eager readers checking out books for the first time, and librarians delighted at the new influx of visitors. But we, of course, don’t hear back from the books themselves. We can only hope that the books enjoy their new home and the journeys they take as much as the library’s patrons seem to appreciate their arrival!

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