Melinda Ponder, Professor of English at Pine Manor College and a Wellesley College graduate, will discuss the life of Katharine Lee Bates. She will focus, in particular, on Bates’ life and academic career here in the Town of Wellesley including her famous work “America the Beautiful”.
The talk will take place at 2pm on March 31 at Wellesley Free Library, which co-hosts the event with Wellesley Historical Society.
Just last week I was on the Wellesley Free Library‘s list of Ten Most-Wanted fugitive patrons, and deservedly so. I’d checked out three books and lost them all. (If you must know, they were Bowlaway, by Elizabeth McCracken; On the Same Page, by N.D. Galland; and Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari.) Not a single one of them made it from my car to the house. Instead, all of them ended up in the used books area at the Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility. A Facebook commenter was incredulous. “I don’t understand – people bring their library books to the dump? Who the heck does that?”
Another commenter came to my rescue with the simple words, “It was a mistake.” Thank you for recognizing that, N.R.
That mistake brought me to a dark place where I teetered on the edge of rescinded library privileges. But before that scenario could move from nightmare to reality, I appealed to The Swellesley Report readership, and my call was answered. Thanks to our sharp-eyed readers, Bowlaway and On the Same Page were found at the RDF and returned to the library. There was just one more lost book to be found. I prayed for an Amazing Grace ending to the story as I renewed Sapiens. The renewal period ended, and there was still no sign of the non-fiction trade paperback. I tried to get more time, but the online system informed me that someone else was waiting to read about a brief history of humankind. The appeals process exhausted, I admitted defeat and wrote a check for the $23 cost of the book. It was an expensive consequence, but at least I’m back to a clean slate. For now. If you’ve been following this story, you know that I’m what might be called a challenging library patron. That means I lose books at a clip of around one a year. I’m not proud.
We had a good question from a reader who has felt my pain: “When I lose a book, why can’t I order one on Amazon and bring it in as the replacement book? Why do I have to pay full retail price to the WFL to resolve the issue? It’s frustrating when I know that I can get it cheaper but am not allowed to.”
According to Elise MacLennan, the library’s Assistant Director, “The cost of replacing a book can be divided into two categories: time and materials. Librarians and support staff are involved. First question – should we even replace it with the exact same thing? Perhaps there is a new edition or a newer book with better information. Librarians decide. Then every item goes through prep for borrowing, which includes cataloging, labeling, covering, etc. Each type of material has a different process.”
On the lam
During my time as a fugitive, I brazenly visited the library anyway. We felons are like that, always returning to the scene of our crimes. I would go in just to visit the shelves where the lost books used to live. I wanted to see if the librarians left those spaces empty, the way the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum curators leave an empty frame to mark the spot where Rembrandt’s The Storm on the Sea of Galilee hung before it was stolen in 1990.
Turns out Wellesley librarians aren’t as dramatic as all that. They simply shelve books as they always do, in straight and even rows, leaving no gaps to mark the tragic disappearance of books.
Now that I’m back in the good graces of the library, I feel so unburdened. All it took was a little checkbook penance to get my record all tidied up. I didn’t have to hire a lawyer. No one measured me for an orange jumpsuit. There will be no time-consuming visits with a parole officer.
As long as I was at the circulation desk handing over my check to Wellesley Free Library Director Jamie Jurgensen, I decided to complete the fresh start and get a brand-new library card because mine was ratty with curling edges and a nearly worn-out bar code. At least I think that’s why I got a new card. Maybe I couldn’t bear the idea of handing over a check and getting nothing in return. Some time in analysis with a good Freudian therapist could probably untangle this web of emotions, but who has time to lie on a couch and dredge up the unconscious? Seems easier to just leave my “losing” books issues buried and deal with the outcomes when I backslide.
For now, I’ll bask in the glow of my returned respectability, impermanent though both glow and respectability may be.
READ THE WHOLE BOOK-LOSING SAGA:
You may remember last week that Mr. and Mrs. Swellesley had hit a patch of domestic discordancy. One half of the team that brings you “more than you really want to know about Wellesley, Massachusetts” (and now more that you really want to know about us as a couple) had mistakenly dropped off 3 Wellesley Free Library books at the Recycling and Disposal Facility books area (see “Mr Swellesley leaves library books at Wellesley RDF; Mrs. Swellesley mad as all get-out”). I pleaded to the Swellesley readership to help us return books to the library and harmony to the marriage.
The call was answered, but first came the other call. The call I feared. I received an email from no less an august personage than Wellesley Free Library Director, Jamie Jurgensen. Uh oh, I’m in for it now, I thought. I wonder if there’s a ceremony for stripping a patron of library privileges? Does Madam Director wish to summons me to my excommunication? I hope she at least turns the Cutting of the Card spectacle into a fundraiser and sells tickets.
But the email was kind and understanding. “Your post made me laugh and cry at the same time,” Jurgensen wrote. “I do hope some astute and kind reader finds and returns the books. We’ll keep a look out on our end.”
Chipper and non-threatening enough, but at the bottom of the email lurked a warning: “When responding, please be advised that the Town of Wellesley has determined that email could be considered a public document.”
Yikes. If I didn’t find a way to make this right, and soon, it was clear that some other kind of shoe could yet drop. If that shoe fell on my head, I might well deserve it. You already know TMI, so I may as well go all in. You see, I am a woman with a past when it comes to library books. Returning them overdue is the least of it. Confession time: I’ve dropped books in puddles. I’ve left books in the rain. I’ve travelled from Point A, gotten off at Point B, but waved the books off to explore Point C all alone. My books have spent lovely months in the Connecticut countryside, watching from the window seat as deer move through the woods, waiting for my return. I’ve had books, swear to God, simply disappear into the ether.
I rectify the problem in the usual way. I throw money at it. Then I vow to become an upstanding library patron with a stainless record, and my vow sticks. Until next time.
Next time is here. I’ve lost three lost books all at once. That’s a record even for me. It’s fun to blame Mr. Swellesley and all, but I wouldn’t want to stand before a judge on this one. I’d probably get a tiresome lecture about how since the books were out on MY card they were MY responsibility, and they shouldn’t have been mixed up in the car with a load of recycling and a Saturday chores-addled husband.
I had started to abandon hope of ever finding the lost books, but then a Facebook message arrived from sharp-eyed reader Lisa Siegel. “Found your copy of Bowlaway. Should I return to library?” she asked.
“Yes, please return to library! Oh, thank you thank you, thank you! Was it at the RDF? I went yesterday but couldn’t find it…I knew it could still be there, though,” I wrote back.
“Yes, was at RDF,” she confirmed.
Yes! One down, two to go.
Shortly after, the next good-news email came in, this one about On the Same Page by N.D. Gallund. Swellesley reader Amy Haley found it at the RDF while collecting books for Women’s Lunch Place in Boston. “I went through the other books I collected,” she wrote, “but had no luck finding the other two. I’ll drop it off at the library tomorrow.”
Hooray! One more to go: Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. Alas, Sapiens has proven to be as elusive as Big Foot, as unlikely to reappear as Cro-Magnon man. Due on March 19, the non-fiction best-seller is a high-demand item with a public that awaits. I’ll hold out until the due date, but if it doesn’t boomerang back, I’ll pay up. Online. That way I won’t have to face the Circulation Desk librarians. I’m all confident smiles to them when I return a pile of books, but there’s always a hang-dog skulk to my posture when I check out books, knowing in my heart what might happen.
Whether or not the last book makes it back, I’m counting myself lucky. I’ve got great Swellesley readers looking out for me and a library that takes me back every time I perform checkbook penance. This time really is going to be the absolutely last time I get myself in this kind of fix.
Thank you, everyone. My spirit has been renewed.
Massachusetts was at the center of the national struggle for women’s rights. Long before the Civil War, Lucy Stone and other Massachusetts abolitionists opposed women’s exclusion from political life. Their activities laid the foundation for the next generation of suffragists to triumph over tradition. Barbara Berenson gives these revolutionary reformers the attention they deserve in a compelling and engaging story. Berenson is a public historian, educator, and author or editor of four books, as well as Senior Lawyer for the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court. This event is free and open to the public. Jointly sponsored by the Wellesley League of Women Voters and the Wellesley Free Library.
WHEN: Thursday, March 14, 2019
WHERE: Wakelin Room, Wellesley Free Library
520 Washington Street
Wellesley Books will welcome in March:
Middle-Grade authors Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Dana Alison Levy, Jen Petro-Roy, & Padma Venkatraman
Susan MacKenty Brady, Mastering Your Inner Critic and 7 Other High Hurdles to Advancement
Gregory Wolos, Women of Consequence
Harlan Coben, Run Away
Dates, times, and locations below: