Back to Library Borrowing Again! (And a Nancy Drew Interlude)

Library curbside pickup 7-25-20

After my pandemic-time Outlander reading marathon (eight purchased books of nearly 10,000 pages), thoughts again turned to my local library this past week.

Fortunately, curbside pickup is now available, so I dove into a process that you might also be experiencing in your own town. I visited the library website this past Wednesday, searched for books I wanted, and set up a Friday appointment to pick them up at a table under an open-sided tent in front of the still-closed building in Montclair, New Jersey. (See the above photo I took.)

The process wasn’t totally seamless; the novels I chose Wednesday were no longer listed for me when I checked my online library account Thursday, so I had to contact a staffer to re-reserve them. The time lag resulted in me losing one book that had apparently been reserved by someone else in the meantime, but the rest of the novels were there Friday in a big paper bag when I drove up and parked in one of three dedicated curbside spaces.

Based on recommendations from readers of this blog, I borrowed Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I’ll discuss all of them during the next few weeks; I suppose I should read them first. 🙂 (I’ll mention who specifically recommended each novel at those points.) The book I missed out on in the reserving snafu was Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, but I’ll get to it eventually.

Prior to my future reading of the four novels I did snag, I finally tried a Nancy Drew mystery thanks to mentions of the series by my wife Laurel Cummins and frequent commenters Clanmother (Rebecca Budd) and Liz Gauffreau. It was The Secret of the Old Clock (1930), the first of MANY installments of the Nancy Drew series and a book my wife owns in a 1987 edition. I thought the novel was very good — in it, Nancy is quite brave and smart and inventive, albeit almost weirdly saint-like. And the interaction between her and her widowed attorney dad had a bit of a Scout Finch/Atticus Finch feel from To Kill a Mockingbird. (Did Harper Lee read Nancy Drew as a kid?)

Speaking of kids, I quickly realized The Secret of the Old Clock was more a children’s novel than the young-adult novel I had expected, so it was quite a change-of-pace after reading Diana Gabaldon’s mature, complex Outlander books — which I had received as a late-March birthday present from my wife. As I mentioned on my Facebook page last Thursday: “I loved this story about the 20th-century doctor Claire who ends up in the 18th century and falls in love with charismatic Scottish warrior Jamie. Plus many other characters — as well as frequent plot twists, plenty of humor, and lots of social commentary (including accurate depictions of how difficult, sexist, racist, and homophobic life could be in the 1700s). Two more not-yet-published novels to go in the planned 10-book series…”

Anyway, back to libraries and curbside pickup. Are you using your local library again? Or did you never stop — borrowing eBooks and such? As I’ve said before, I look at screens so much (my laptop and phone) that I’ve stuck with old-fashioned print novels to give my eyes a break. Plus it’s a longtime habit thing, I love the idea as well as the feel of physical books, and I really enjoy library visits. I’m greatly looking forward to when my local library lets people inside again.

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest piece — which includes what my town might do about schools this fall during the pandemic — is here.

55 thoughts on “Back to Library Borrowing Again! (And a Nancy Drew Interlude)

  1. I really like your beautiful blog. A pleasure to come stroll on your pages. A great discovery and a very interesting blog. I will come back to visit you. Do not hesitate to visit my universe. See you soon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dave, I have a short blog entry about my library usage. I am finding it an amazing resource. That is the St Louis Library system. The one down Iron County Mo – Ozarks Regional Library is not as great, but you can go chat with the director if you like, I think there are actually only 3 or 4 employees. The rural library, like most things rural, doesn’t have a sense of urgency about it. If you order a book from another branch it won’t be there the next day. By and by it will show up though. Good printers in both places.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the comment, Joe! I just read the piece (“Visitation and Library”) I think you were referring to. Well done.

      It’s interesting how different libraries’ services can be in this pandemic time — dependent on budgets and other factors. In addition to my local library offering curbside pickup, it will do a certain amount of printing for people who need that even though the building is still closed to residents.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Dave,

    Apologies for the tardy comment here. I have thought about it off and on all week, but somehow didn’t find the time to write until now.

    Our libraries have been pretty good through this whole ordeal. We had some notice that they were going to close, and were able to borrow up to forty books with no real due date. Unfortunately, that means that the shelves are pretty bare now that libraries are starting to re-open. And I believe that the books spend some time in quarantine before being put back on the shelves. But the online service has worked much like normal. We can search for books, and reserve them so it’s a quick in and out when we go to pick them up. And we’re still able to have books transferred through the interconnected libraries like normal. If I remember right, you’re not much of an online requester and would rather just wait and see what’s available? The uncertainty of that would drive me crazy!

    Actually, my library habits over the last few months haven’t greatly changed. Somehow I timed it that all the books coming up on my list were either electronic books, books I’d bought from second hand stores, or books that I’d borrowed from friends. I do look forward to being able to sit and read in the library again though. I think technically I could do it now, but there’s a time limit on how long you can spend inside. Does the virus only get bored after thirty minutes and so we’re safe up until that time?!

    Dave, it goes without saying that people should read what they want however they want. I’m not a fan of audio books but I know they’ve become really popular and most people describe them as reading. In relation to electronic books though, I always suggest people try a Kindle before saying they won’t read electronically because of the screen time they already overdose on. The technology that goes into a Kindle is different from a phone or laptop, so it doesn’t strain the eyes. I’ve even been reading on my e-book and licked my finger to turn the page! It did take a little adjustment, but it wasn’t long before reading my Kindle was the same as reading a paperback. And it was hilarious watching my Grandfather pick it up and stare at it for a bit until he figured out how to turn it on. Then he was reading Twilight out loud just as it was starting to get to a juicy bit. Ooh, there might be a segue here to lead into my comment on this week’s topic…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Susan! What a great, wide-ranging comment!

      Wonderful that your library gave adequate notice before it closed. As we might have already discussed, my local one didn’t, so I couldn’t do a mass-checkout in March. I would have come in with a wheelbarrow. 🙂

      Also excellent that online and interlibrary services have continued to work well for you. You’re right — I just borrow books that are there; there are so many on my list that there are always more than enough to take out during any given month.

      It would be nice to sit in a library again, even with a time limit. “Does the virus only get bored after thirty minutes and so we’re safe up until that time?” — LOL! 🙂 🙂

      My local library also quarantines books for a while — a good thing. But it must be strange for the world’s admirable librarians to now be forced to also be cleaning experts.

      You’re absolutely right that a Kindle screen is not the same as a phone or computer screen, but somehow when I’ve “sampled” my daughter’s Kindle the experience still seemed “screen-y” rather than “printed book-y.” Maybe I just feel Amazon’s owner is too rich. 🙂

      Loved the grandparent segue ending your comment!


  4. I have worked in libraries, my mother toiled in that profession for decades, and my father’s collection of books in his field now takes up rooms in his university’s library, so I should be a habitue of long standing. Yet I am not.

    I have no good excuse, except that libraries have never figured in my NYC rounds, while street-sellers and charity shops have. I like being surprised by what turns up, and buy on whim and momentary attraction.

    I do subscribe to literary magazines, and will sometimes remember some item discussed therein long enough to buy something that first interested me there when it turns up on a card table on Broadway.
    But that’s the luxury of living in the book capital of America. It’s like beachcombing, only not for brightly colored bits of sea glass and shell, but for jewels among the shoals of tomes.

    An odd library tale. My father, as he slowly lost his mobility and heart health and lung capacity, would ask me, when he was feeling especially low, to go to the main branch of the public library here to look up something in a special collection he recalled from decades before. I told him I would, but never did, certain somehow that if I had done so, he would be satisfied his quest to clear up an ancient genealogical mystery was at an end and he had no further need to live. Selfishly, I wanted him around longer than that. And as a son who had mostly disappointed him, I felt I could handle being the cause of one more disappointment, especially this one, in the name of a greater good.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, jhNY, there are different ways to be a reader — and NYC is indeed an epicenter of buying second-hand books for often-modest prices.

      When I lived in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens for 15 years, I did enjoy the branch libraries near my various apartments — some of those libraries in really nice older buildings.

      That’s a poignant, interesting memory of denying your father research help in the hope that frustrated curiosity would prolong his life a bit. Hope it worked!


  5. Dave, at least we can request a book and pick up from driveway windows.

    The book I am reading now The SECERTary , by Renne Knight. A loyal secretary so devoted to her boss always at her beck and call, husband left her for neglect ,for a dangerous line between loyalty and obsession.

    How this Woman lied and covered fo her boss for decades and then in the end was let down by the one she covered for.

    Have not finished the book as yet.almost 45 pages left , but neen to be at the kitchen.

    Perpas I`ll post after I finish, but won`t give it away.

    Reminds me of trump and all his peons, soon there will be One or even more to be even more dangerous than trump .

    Can`t wait to see how it ends , when trump loses it all. ..

    Liked by 1 person

    • “…at least we can request a book and pick up from driveway windows” — that seems pretty good, bebe.

      “The Secretary” sounds really intriguing. And, yes, being loyal to a boss and getting no loyalty in return does resemble the situation of almost everyone who has worked for Trump.

      I hope, hope, hope Trump loses it all, followed by gaining…a jail cell.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I hope also trump loses it all and rot in jail with dementia, or in a funny farm.

        I finished the book, was interesting but a bit creepy. I am sure you won’t read it.
        ” revenge” is not sweet at all but after decades of abuse one does not know.
        Yes, the SECRETary , had the revenge but ended up hurting herself as well.

        Now back to our real life, just heard Biden is going to choose a mate, this week ?
        We know what Hillary did , and no one then ever has heard of the one she chose.

        Oh darn…whatever it is let`s hope he does not get a second term.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, bebe, Trump deserves the worst. But rich white guys like him almost never end up in jail — he’ll probably cop some sort of stay-out-of-prison deal, maybe in return for leaving the White House after refusing to leave the White House.

          It would be nice if Biden picks a strong veep, unlike the milquetoast guy Hillary chose — among the reasons she lost the election. It would also be nice if Biden picked a progressive veep to counter-balance his right-leaning-centrist history, but I’m not holding my breath. 😦

          Liked by 1 person

            • Elizabeth Warren is my favorite among the supposed candidates, despite how shabbily she treated Bernie Sanders. In theory I’d love to see an African-American woman picked, but Kamala Harris, Val Demings, and Susan Rice are too centrist for my tastes — with the first two having troubling law-enforcement backgrounds (Harris as California attorney general and Demings as Orlando police chief).


  6. And speaking of kids and libraries, today I picked up from my library in KC “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States: For Young People,” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. I’m hoping to fill in lots of gaps in my understanding of this history, and thought I’d start with this one. We are — and should be — understanding our American white supremacist history in this #BLM time, which is why I’m reading Ibram X. Kendi’s 2016 book, “Stamped from the Beginning,” but I don’t want to ignore the history of the people who were here long before the European adventurers arrived. Thank you, KC Public Library.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Bill! Two excellent books you mentioned! It’s so great — and such a corrective — when history focuses on the oppressed and marginalized rather than the oppressors. The history I was taught in high school was so incomplete; I’ve tried to make up for that since then. Sounds like you are, too. Kudos to the KC Public Library!


  7. I love the diversity of your selections, Dave! Our local library branch has refused to offer curbside pickup or drop-offs, with only 3 branches of our entire citywide system cooperating. In some ways I feel these libraries and librarians are literally putting themselves out of business. So foolish. I’m, of course, happy for you and others who have seen some accommodation for patrons. Meanwhile at home, it’s kind of fun being ‘forced’ to read titles sitting around that I’d not normally read 🙂 An upside to all this I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Mary Jo!

      Very sorry your local library branch isn’t at least offering curbside pickup. I guess there can be staffing issues in some branches and, depending on how bad the pandemic currently is in a particular state, heath-related risks. But as you aptly say, these libraries are running the risk of putting themselves out of business. 😦

      And, yes, there is something nice about reading books that are already at home, but, still, one would like the library option.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I actually just finished “the Hate U Give” a few weeks ago – some very good reading. I think you will like it. I’ve continued to use my library’s electronic services, but it just isn’t the same 😦 😦 While our library has started doing curbside, I haven’t been able to get many of the books I’m looking for since they all have pretty long wait lists. I look forward to the day of walking into the library again and just snatching books off the shelves! 🙂 In the meantime I do get a lot of electronic reads, and I also have my bookshelf at home to keep me plenty busy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, M.B.! I’m looking forward to reading “The Hate U Give.”

      Sorry about the waiting lists when you’ve attempted curbside pickup. Yes, electronic services endure, but they indeed don’t feel as good. Getting inside a library at some point is the Holy Grail!

      And home bookshelves do come in handy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. My library is open (except for the children’s floor), but I’m sticking with curbside pickup. They’ve been doing this for a while, now, so the process is quite smooth. As for “Outlander” vs “Nancy Drew,” you can’t get much different:) I have a very rough copy of the 1930s edition of “The Secret of the Old Clock.” It’s falling apart but I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Becky! Glad your library is (mostly) open, but I totally understand sticking with curbside pickup if that works for you — and given that the process has been smooth. 🙂

      Yes, “Outlander” and Nancy Drew are sort of on different planets!

      Great that you have such an old edition of “The Secret of the Old Clock”! Pieces of tape can work wonders. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ours are not open again yet. But we do have a lovely library and garden here that also does lots of community events nad has a very active friends of group. Smiling at Nancy Drew. I had no idea that book was written then. It is the only Nancy Drew book I have read and the cover on it at that time was bang up to date, so I thought she was a thoroughly modern gal. The next door neighbour lent me it and was raving about it. Alas, my mam plain;y had it in for Nancy and she went titz about rubbish American literature, wrongly spelled to boot . And that, alas, was therefore my only brush with Nance of the house of Drew.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Shehanne, for the enjoyable comment! Some American fiction is indeed rubbish, but Nancy Drew seems better than a lot of decades-ago mass literature aimed at younger people. 🙂

      I’ve read that Nancy Drew was indeed updated in some editions — not the first time that’s been done with iconic children’s literature containing some outdated/objectionable elements. (Sometimes this happens in TV adaptations; for instance, “The Cat in the Hat” animated series included a black character that didn’t exist in the Dr. Seuss book.)

      Sorry your library hasn’t reopened yet, but the garden and community events sound really nice!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. A pick up service is a great initiative on the part of your dedicated library team – bravo them! Edinburgh’s libraries are gearing up to open gradually in the coming weeks. But they have an extensive collection available online which is great. I must admit, though, that I have been buying far more physical books in recent months than I would normally do. I definitely enjoy being surrounded by piles of books and my husband is being very patient at the moment!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Liz! Yes, my town’s library team — like library teams everywhere — has been great. Glad to hear Edinburgh’s libraries will be (gradually) reopening soon. In the meantime, having so much online really helps. And I hear you about buying more physical books. During a pandemic, that is often going to happen! My apartment is definitely more book-cluttered now than it was in March. Grateful that I’m not claustrophobic… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I think I mentioned before that our library in Chester County has had curbside pickup for at least a month (by appointment), but in the last few weeks we’ve been able to put the books on hold and go pick them up inside after learning that they’re available. I just learned that it is now open for browsing, masks required and for 30-minutes only. I think we’ve each picked up four or so books apiece each week since the reopening. I don’t think I’m quite ready for browsing yet, because carrying a cane and carrying four hardcovers is a bit difficult for me and bending over to the bottom shelves is near impossible for me to do.

    As to Nancy Drew, I’ve got a collection of ten (I think out of 16 of the first books in the series) published by Applewood Publishing. The first one is “The Secret of the Old Clock,” published in 1930, and all of these beautiful books are facsimile reproductions of the originals, including covers and illustrations. The only additions made to the books are a Publisher’s Note in all and the first one has an introduction by Sara Paretsky. One of the most interesting things about this is that the novels are unedited and not condensed. For obvious reasons, most of us wouldn’t be entirely comfortable with the racial and social stereotyping; however, I think it’s part of their charm that they are exactly as originally written. While I love the Nancy Drew character, I was always more partial to one of her two chums, the boyish George Fayne — which is odd because I was never a tomboy, but I suppose Nancy was just a little too perfect for my taste!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kat Lit!

      Great that you have 10 Nancy Drew books that are reproductions! Yes, those novels seem “of their time” in various ways. “The Secret of the Old Clock” was certainly a very white world, for instance. Yet Nancy is a stronger female character than one might expect in 1930s children’s books. So there’s that. George Fayne wasn’t in “The Secret of the Old Clock,” so I didn’t get to “meet” that character.

      Sounds like your local library is more open than some. Good to hear. If this country had better leadership, libraries and so many other things would be closer to being back to normal. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Our library is closed. The virus is only partially to blame, the main cause is the place is being extensively remodeled. A bond issue financing the changes was passed by the voters here last year. Dave – you won’t believe this but it’s true – one of the main changes will be a relocation of the main stairway from en interior central location to near the reconfigured front entrance. Montclair is not the only place seeking elevation transition improvements.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Doug! I guess if there’s ever a good time for a remodeling, now’s that time. But I hope the work doesn’t last TOO long.

      Hmm…stairways continue to be a “thing.” 🙂 With your library staircase moving, those steps will get their…steps. (Fitbit humor.)


  14. Curbside pickup has been highly appreciated from my local library. They are now allowing browsing, by appointment.

    I had 3 books via curbside pickup, all since returned,2 on birds of North America. One is from National Geographic, Backyard Birds,well organized,and larger book,beautiful drawings,30 years old,a Reader’s Digest reference.

    For a beginner and proud “bird nerd” in training, these library books have set a new hobby,a happy distraction during this awful pandemic. So much so I’m on the cusp of purchasing a Sibley’s Guide for Eastern USA as well as binoculars. 🐦

    The other book I took out curbside was “An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones. A love triangle that was well written and a solid read.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Michele! Nice — curbside pickup and some appointment browsing! I miss browsing, but have so many novels on my to-read list that it’s okay to not have book serendipity for a while.

      And congratulations on your new hobby! I like the term “bird nerd.” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I laughed out loud when I read “weirdly saint-like.” That is exactly what my niece said to me, not in those words, but the same thought. Edward Stratemeyer, the creator, was a business man who saw a window of opportunity. From what I read, he believed that woman’s place was in the home, which is rather ironic, given that he hired a women, Mildred Wirt Benson, to write the first books under the name Carolyn Keene. I recently read an New York Times article on the enduring relevance of Nancy Drew. As a 9-year-old, I appreciated Nancy’s spunk, audacity and unfailing confidence in who she was. As for the Outlander series, a few years ago, I met a woman who believed that time travel is a possibility. When I travelled to Scotland, I did touch the stones, but alas (or maybe fortunately) never found my way back to the 1700’s. Thank you for another great post – I look forward to my Sunday morning discussions with you.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Clanmother, for the kind words and all that fascinating information!

      Interesting that Nancy Drew was originally created by a man but that the books (thankfully) had female authorship. Sort of like the dichotomy with Nancy herself: very much her own person, feminist even, yet rather traditional at the same time. In some ways Nancy feels like she can only be a fictional creation, not a real person (like some characters feel to us). Then again, I’ve only read one Nancy Drew book, so I’m FAR from an expert about her. 🙂

      Great that you had the “Outlander” experience in Scotland! Glad you didn’t go back to the 1700s because I’d miss your comments, blog posts, and podcasts — though maybe you’d figure out how to do them from the 18th century!

      Liked by 4 people

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