The Library Smell: what an incredible invention. There is something so innately comforting to me about the smell of an established library. New libraries smell funny, smell wrong yet. A library that’s been around, oh, let’s say ten years … now that’s a smell.

Of course my attraction to libraries is more than just an affection for a good, musty book-scent. It’s the calmness of a library, the lack of sudden movements (even moreso in the South, living up to that stereotype), the peace. I’ve loved libraries ever since my parents used to take me to the little Cambridge Springs library on the corner of the street we lived on. Libraries meant books, and I’ve never been able to get enough of those.

Since I started working in a library, they aren’t peaceful anymore. I can’t study in one, and I don’t linger in them. The irony of this entry is that the police were at my library today (police always meaning to me the disruption of peace, “disturbing the peace”) and I’m still boggling over it.

A man was jacking off upstairs today. One of the patrons came to the circulation desk to report it, but he had already left. In fact, I saw him leave. I remembered seeing him leave because I thought his shoes were funny-looking; he was wearing sandals with a jogging-suit type of top and shorts. Really nice brown leather sandals, too. It was very odd, so I looked, and remembered. And then a few minutes later, I found out that Sandal Man had been having a lovely old time on the second floor, much to the chagrin of the med students trying to immerse themselves in gastrointestinal disorders and the like. I thought I was going to experience my own gastrointestinal disorder when I found out about Sandal Man.

But I didn’t. That’s what is truly disturbing to me. Libraries are no longer peaceful places, and I was made fully aware of this when I failed to react to the news of Sandal Man’s exploits. Now, libraries are just places like any other places, any other places that can house bizarre situations like today’s. Well, jacking off isn’t so bizarre, I suppose, but in a public place it still is beyond the norm.

The library I work in is not beautiful. It’s not even austere and efficient. It’s just serviceable, and boring, and plain. It has a lobby on the ground floor that serves no purpose; you can’t get into or out of the actual building from the ground floor lobby. The library has really loud doors, and sounds carry horridly through the low rooms. The air conditioning is permanently stuck at 45 degrees.

And yet there was something endearing about the place. I know how to find things in it. I know where the back doors are, and how to open the basement door with one hand. But every day I work there, it makes all libraries seem less like magical places and more like … buildings. Barnes and Noble is more exciting than libraries are to me, these days.

Maybe that’s why I buy more books than I could ever possibly read. I’m making my own library, at home, where it always smells good and no one’s jacking off (inappropriately, anyway). There’s also a cat. If libraries exist in the future, they must all be equipped with cats. It might cut down on the Sandal Men, too. No one I know can get off with a cat staring them down.

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.