Thirty months after I left for the US, I returned home for a three week vacation. And the first visit I paid was to the librarian (at the library near my house of course). I may have heard my mother almost-grumbling, But you haven’t even seen the rest of the family yet! He was delighted to see me (if I may say so myself), and after pleasantries were done away with, he asked me what he really wanted to know: How are the libraries in America?!
I told him of the large libraries with more than one floor filled with books, with sofas to lounge on. I told him about the computers that you could use, the activities that took place all the time. He appeared disheartened but did not want to let it on. Oh you may not like it here anymore.
How could I tell him exactly how much I liked this compact space that passes off for a library? You must imagine a small nondescript room in a row of such small nondescript rooms, packed floor to ceiling with books, with hiding places for the newest books and the best-selling authors (kept aside for regulars). You must imagine a rickety table on which sat a fan and a file, and later a computer and a mosquito bat, keeping up with the changing times. You must imagine a genial man, smiling to himself as I hid a romance novel in my bag (I only want to find out what it’s about), and the same man, feeling a little pride as I asked him for books he hadn’t heard of. You must imagine me as a child with sticks for arms, furiously pedalling away, a teenager with a scowl impatiently reading Valerio Massimo Manfredi’s books, and now a woman returning from work, asking the one question that remains unchanged through the years: So what new books do you have? This librarian does not seem to have aged, he looks the way he looked when I asked for a membership about fifteen years ago. Well, he may have more wrinkles, and more grey hair, and a bigger paunch; but if I think about it, time has stood still for the most part.