Before the CUPE strike closed the Vancouver libraries, I managed to get in one last visit to the Vancouver Public Library, Central Branch – seven floors of literary fun housed inside a building with some sort of anachronic identity disorder. You see, the library seems to think it’s a coliseum. The full impact of the architecture can’t be done justice in the photo to the right – you really have to stand next to this behemoth of a building to really appreciate it in its enormity and anachronism.
But enough about the beauty of the Central VPL. That’s not my rant.
Near the entrance of the main (fiction) floor is the “Fast-Read” shelf. The Fast-Read shelf is a special selection of books on the current bestseller list and other extremely recent or popular books, like The Da Vinci Code. These books are only available to borrow for a week at a time with heavier than normal overdue fees, the point being to circulate them very quickly to meet the huge demand.
I’m not a fan of pulp fiction at all, but my father adores paperback mystery novels, and he asked me to look for anything he would like. So I was scanning the Fast-Read shelf for something suspense-y when what do I see, but Anna Karenina in all its 900-page glory.
Anna Karenina is a fast read?
What kind of reading-maniac could finish and comprehend the full text of Anna Karenina in a week? What kind of self-respecting lover of literature would want to? It’s not easy to skim a Tolstoy novel in a week anyways, but the only people really keen on reading Russian literature in the first place aren’t usually the type to rush through a great literary work. That’s not the point of reading these books.
Strangely, I had no problem finding several older copies of Anna Karenina available for three week loan periods with two renewal options one floor above in the literature section. It’s only the new copies down on the Fast-Read shelf that are in high demand; the older ones are one floor away and covered in dust.
I blame Oprah and her book club for getting Anna Karenina on the Fast-Read shelf. Since she endorsed it in 2004, its popularity has skyrocketed. Many people who wouldn’t otherwise consider reading Tolstoy have clearly been trying to get ahold of it at the library, so the loan period was limited to one week per patron, no renewals. It’s all good and fine that more people are reading great literature, but it’s just cruel and unusual to expect them to do it in one week. That’s just silly.
And while I’m on the topic of ranting about the library, what’s wrong with those people that underline things in non-fiction library books in pen? It’s a public library book, not something from a private collection. At least notes in pencil can be erased, even if it’s a lengthy book and the previous borrower underlined everything. What are those people thinking?