TITLE: The Disappearing Millions
AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford
DATE: March 09, 2017 3:20 PM
Almost a decade ago, I
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
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
I ended up holding
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
"Cycling" was a pretty good read, too, for what that's worth.
It was another serendipitous find while wandering the stacks.