Eric D. Snider

Checking It out

Snide Remarks #207

"Checking It out"

by Eric D. Snider

Published in The Daily Herald on September 21, 2001

Our new library in Provo is very lovely. It used to be the Brigham Young Academy, but the building fell into disrepair sometime after the Civil War and was being used primarily as a place for kids to sneak into and make out.

It was a marvelous, creepy-looking old building that scared me every time I drove past it. (Bear in mind I also get scared when I see spiders or Christina Ricci.) I imagined a lot of episodes of "Scooby-Doo" taking place there. It was one of my favorite Provo landmarks, along with the neon Grimace character in the window of the Bulldog Boulevard McDonald's who appears to be flipping us off.

A few years ago, some folks decided to restore the Academy building and turn it into a grand new library. This they did, with the help of a lot of money and the Ghostbusters.

Some people complained that the dedication ceremony a few weeks ago had too much Mormon influence in it, and I have to agree. I don't understand why a state founded by Mormons in which most of the residents are Mormons in which a building originally built by Mormons for Mormons to use would have so much Mormon stuff in its re-dedication ceremony.

Anyway, I visited the library recently to see what's there. Turns out the whole thing's full of nothing but books. I figured by the 21st century they'd have holograms and talking card catalogs, but no such luck. Just the old-fashioned, left-to-right assemblage of symbols printed on pages. Oh, and cyborg librarians who can see the future.

The new facility is beautiful. I cannot stress this enough. It looks like the gorgeous old university libraries you see in movies (and, I suppose, at universities), but it's not musty. (All the must was cleaned out with the beer bottles and skeletons and was donated to a fledgling second-hand store that still suffered from "new-store smell.")

I observed several people sitting around, reading books. My first thought was the same one I have when I see people doing this at Barnes & Noble: Hey, cheapskates, this isn't a library. Then I realized it WAS a library, but not before knocking "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" out of some kid's hands.

But seriously, who are these people? What a charmed life, to be able to spend the whole day sitting around a library, reading free books in quiet, air-conditioned comfort. Some of us have to sit in an office all day and surf the Internet!

The library has an entire shelf devoted to Cliffs Notes. This is the height of laziness. Why read the book when you can read the Cliffs Notes, and why buy the Cliffs Notes when you can read them for free at the library? I applaud the efforts of the American student to become more slothful.

I also heard a woman request a library card, except she pronounced it "libarry." I understand the requirements to obtain a library card are not very stringent, but I do think you should be able to pronounce the word. Anyone requesting a "libarry" card should be given a membership at a video store instead.

Spending some time among the books reminded me of my childhood in Lake Elsinore, Calif., where the local library was named after a relative of ours. Because of this connection, we were allowed to check out books for free (or so we were told). I have fond memories of going there often. I got a lot of joke books, Choose Your Own Adventure books, the "Alice in Wonderland" books, Danny Dunn books, Encyclopedia Brown books, and others that too much time in front of the TV has since edged out of my memory. My brothers and I would prowl around the children's section while Mom looked through the adult books; I now understand this distinction merely meant her books were for grown-ups, not that they were dirty.

I wish I had more time to read books. There are so many I haven't read, such as "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and the user's manual for my CD burner. Maybe our beautiful new city library will inspire me to call in sick for a few days and catch up with some "old friends." And maybe then I'll go read some books.

Stumble It!

Notes:

I have no delusions about this being a gut-buster of a column, but I do believe it to be amusing and altogether pleasant. It's such a gentle, pastoral topic, and far be it from me to disrupt gentility.

Christina Ricci is the creepy girl who played Wednesday in the "Addams Family" movies. Since growing to adulthood, she has continued to frighten me. I honestly would be terrified if I ever met her; she really does scare me.

The bird-flipping Grimace was pointed out to me by a Provo native several years ago, and only now have I seen fit to mention it in the column. One of these days I will get a photograph of it so you can see for yourself, but that day is not today. The deal is that Grimace only has three fingers, and the middle one is longer and more upright than the other two. Once you think of it this way, you'll never look at it the same way again. You're welcome.

This column prompted this e-mail. Note that the writer is the latest in a long series of people who think it is somehow an insult to say that a column called "Snide Remarks"? was indeed snide.

Mr. Snider's column certainly lived up to its name ("Snide Remarks") [Oooh, burn!] on September 21 in his review of the new Provo Public Library. His cynical remarks about having "so much Mormon stuff" in the rededication ceremony of the new library illustrates typical Utah Valley insensitivity to any but the majority view. So, Mr. Snider, shouldn't a tay-payer financing this wonderful new PUBLIC library expect to feel a sense of community at its opening? After all, a public library fosters diverse viewpoints and encourages freedom of opinion. It's too bad the opening ceremonies didn't exemplify what public libraries stand for by including the diversity of our community.
Gretchen Freeman
Provo

I am a tax-payer (and occasionally a tay-payer), and I did feel a sense of community at the opening. The building played a major part in local LDS history, a vast majority (like 90 percent) of the current residents are LDS ... and sure enough, there was an LDS influence in the ceremony. It wasn't a proselyting thing, or an attempt to make the building a church facility. It just accurately reflected the building's history.

Pull the stick out, folks. It's just life.

Got this e-mail a few days later, about a different aspect of the same column. I have put in bold type a sentence that I think was assembled by drawing words randomly out of a hat.

Dear Mr. Snider:

I was enjoying your article on the new Provo library until I came to the paragraph where you mention someone asking for a "libarry"card, as you yourself put it in a, might I add, very offensive and derogative way.

I have one question for you: What is wrong with someone, with a different native language, going to the library and wanting to educate themselves? I commend people, ALL PEOPLE, for making an effort to become educated especially in the language that is not theirs, however the country's where they now live in.

I showed your article to other friends and I was not the only one offended by your words. I strongly believe that every person who speaks English as a second language deserves a written and public apology for your careless and thoughtless words.

Respectfully yours,
Viviana Morales & friends


What you're asking yourself now is, "Where did Eric ever say it was a foreigner who said 'libarry'?" The answer is: In Viviana Morales' imagination, that's where. It was a Caucasian woman, and English appeared to be her native tongue. I guess I should have spelled that out specifically.

This item has 6 comments

  1. Christina D. says:

    "I have put in bold type a sentence that I think was assembled by drawing words randomly out of a hat.

    I commend people, ALL PEOPLE, for making an effort to become educated especially in the language that is not theirs, however the country's where they now live in.

    What you're asking yourself now is, "Where did Eric ever say it was a foreigner who said 'libarry'?" The answer is: In Viviana Morales' imagination, that's where."

    Bahahahaha! This made me laugh SO hard! I can just imagine Viviana cutting up a dictionary, putting it into a hat and pulling out words.

    "THIS will show him!" She says to her imaginary friends and laughing manically. "There's no way he could ever argue the logic of this sentence!"

    This is my favorite so far of the archived angry letters that I have read so far. I've been methodically going through them because I have nothing better to do at work. :-D I will smile all the rest of the day.

    Speaking of pretty libraries, have you been to the new Beaverton library, Eric? You should go and look at it. It's gorgeous. And there's a "fun" fountain to play in during the summer if you are too cheap to drive yourself up to wherever that waterpark is in Washington that I went to once. Also it's nice if you want to have a chance to laugh at the 500 children trying to play (all at the same time) in a fountain that is about the size of a patio.

  2. Aaron says:

    This one made me laugh:

    "Then I realized it WAS a library, but not before knocking "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing" out of some kid's hands."

    That one line makes the whole column worth it.

  3. Turkey says:

    The ONLY people I've ever heard pronounce it "libarry" are native English-speaking rednecked hillbillies. And George Bush. Point is, only our proud Americans are stupid enough to have no clue as to how that word is pronounced.

  4. James N says:

    Yes, rednecked hillbillies, but also African-Americans: that's what originally came to my mind, since I grew up in rural Mississippi and knew that "libary" is, in fact, the pronunciation as found in the standard black (southern?) American dialect. Of course, Eric might not have dared include it in his column, if so, because of the intricate protocol which outlines exactly what we are and are not allowed to make fun of, depending on our very specific ethnic and cultural background. Then again, he has shown a delightful disposition to largely ignore said intricate protocol in the past, so you never know.

    It is also interesting to contemplate whether people perpetuating poor English through the generations (such as the southern black community) are protected from all degrees of mockery under Viviana's code of conduct, even though the original non-english-speaking generation is long gone. Food for thought, anyway.

  5. Libilu says:

    "Libarry" is actually a very common pronunciation here in Utah County, as well as "mikerwave" (microwave), "samwich" (sandwich) "mow-in" (mountain), and many more. At least among my family/friends/neighbors. These kinds of mispronunciations drive me crazy! Lehi, my hometown, was once a hic town, and in some ways it still is.

  6. Courtney C says:

    We do pronounce it 'mow-in'! That's gonna make me laugh for like an hour, anyway, I think it's hilarious when he makes fun of Mormons, because most people get offended, except for the Mormons, ah they make me laugh ha ha!

    And my 2-year old sister, when she says sandwich, it took us the longest time to figure out she wasn't swearing, it sounds like 'd*** it'. I shall laugh again! Ha ha!

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