TITLE: The Disappearing Millions AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: March 09, 2017 3:20 PM DESC: ----- BODY: Almost a decade ago, I last blogged about my library book version of Scott Hastings's million: leading the league, so to speak, in being the first person to check a particular book out of my university library. Since my first post of the subject twelve years ago, I have apparently mellowed... I'm no longer willing to claim that I lead the league in this stat. Other patrons certainly read more books than I do, and if they keep their eyes open for new acquisitions, they almost surely top me. But even the humbler me can't help but notice that many of the books I check out, whether CS books or literature, seem to be in mint condition. They are being read for the first time, by me. These days, identifying millions is a more fallible task. The library long ago terminated the practice of stamping a book's due date on a slip inside the front cover. That's all handled electronically now (those infernal computers!), so only the library knows when a book was last checked out. On the long list of cultural experiences lost to changing culture and advancing technology, this one is rather minor, but it's one that a frequent user of libraries might notice feel wistful about. I sometimes do. I always liked seeing the long list of due dates in the books I borrowed; it bestowed on me a sense of kinship with the readers who came before. In the case of all those Asimov and Vonnegut books I re-read, one of the readers who came before was me! I do think I have another million to my credit, though. A couple of weeks ago, I went over to library to look for some book -- a novel or literary criticism, I can't remember. I looked it over and decided not to check it out after all. I was in no hurry to get back to the office, so I indulged in a few minutes of wandering the stacks to see if anything struck my fancy. I hadn't done that in a while, and I missed it. I ended up holding Cycling, the 2003 second novel of Greg Garrett. It was purchased long enough ago to have a Due Date slipped glued inside the front cover, but the slip was empty. The cover, pages, and corners gave every appearance of being brand new. Seeing no evidence to the contrary, I stake my claim. When you consider changes in library acquisitions, changes in my reading habits, and the uncertainty today of knowing which books have never been read, how many more times will I have the chance? "Cycling" was a pretty good read, too, for what that's worth. It was another serendipitous find while wandering the stacks. -----