Checking It out

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.

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

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.