Library loans.

We have a few slightly more “unusual” items available to borrow at the public library here in Calgary, including pedometers, electricity usage monitors, and – at one of our branches – musical instruments of all kinds, which is crazy exciting (and I really ought to take advantage of the opportunity at some point. I can’t currently play any instruments, but what better way to find out which one I would like to take up?).  I know some libraries throughout the world will lend out garden seeds, tools, and household appliances, among other useful items.  At one library in a neighbouring town in Alberta, you can even borrow snowshoes during the winter months.

Does your local library lend out items other than books (print and electronic), audio/visual materials, and access to streaming services and other online content such as newspapers and educational courses?  Have you ever used any of the “additional” items offered?

‘Bye, Book!

One of the sweetest things overheard in the library: children feeding their books into our self check-in machine and calling out a farewell to each one as it is gathered up by the conveyor belts and propelled down the runways into whatever bin it is destined for. Sometimes they specifically name each book: “‘Bye-bye, Pete the Cat!”, but more often, they are all “Book,” the capital letter not merely implied, but reinforced by emphasis.  In the little voices, I can detect notes of wistfulness (that was such a good read!) and excitement (on to the next one!), as well as the usual curiosity and neato! factor that comes with peering through that little gap in the wall and catching our zippy self check-in machine in action. What they can’t see are the huge, knowing smiles on the faces of the team on the other side of the wall, as we wait for the books to drop.


Have you recently read a book so wonderful that you would wistfully drop it into the book chute and say “goodbye”?  (Or, on the other hand, gleefully say “goodbye” to, because it was so awful?).

The Door is Ajar: Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith.


Public Library and Other Stories – Ali Smith (2015 Penguin Canada)

Smith’s collection of short stories was gathered together to celebrate the role of public libraries in personal and public life, of the value they bring to community, and the wealth of knowledge and the opportunity for engagement, thought, and creativity that they invoke.  Public Library is also a protest against the closure of libraries in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, the quashing of budgets, collections, and services in libraries that remain, and the overall decline of government and popular support for these previously-revered institutions.  Smith’s stories are framed by quotes from writers, thinkers, and other figures as they explore their personal emotions and connections to libraries, books, reading, and writing.

The stories themselves were a delight for me and I devoured them in a couple of very short sittings. I am not familiar with Smith’s other work and I loved her style and juicy depth of language as she wound her way around several accounts of relationships gone sour, reimaginings of history, and family life.  It’s difficult to pick a favourite out of this collection, but “The Ex-Wife” and “The Poet” are special standouts for me.  Highly recommended.


“When a bookmark tumbles out of an old book pristine and unwrinkled, it is like a gasp of breath from another century.”

~Don Borchert

As many of you may know, I work in a library.  I was training a new employee this past week and when I showed her the Lost and Found bins, I mentioned a few of the items we sometimes find inserted within the pages of the books that come down the chutes.  She was a little surprised at some of them, and I got to thinking it would be fun to make a list of all the “bookmarks” I’ve personally encountered over the years.  What do you think of some of these?

Due date slips (obviously)

Postcards from all over the world

Airline boarding passes, printed with destinations all over the world

Brightly coloured Post-Its on of a 300+ page book

Price tags from articles of clothing

Receipts and tickets from movies, concerts, etc.

Old photographs

Facial tissue – and my particular favourite, toilet paper (thankfully it’s always unused!)

Credit cards

Library cards

Hair ties


Snow in the winter, grass in the summer

Lollipops – wrapped and unwrapped (and partially consumed)

Pencils, pens, crayons

Grocery lists

Electricity/water bills

Lottery tickets

Paper money in small denominations

Pages of schoolwork

Single playing cards and trading or game cards such as Pokemon

Parts of a manuscript for a novel

A handwritten note which stated we were the recipients of a Random Act of Kindness and we were offered best wishes to have a wonderful day (how sweet is that?)

Christmas/Birthday cards

Calendar pages

Payroll stubs – and paycheques!

Certificates of various achievements

Sudoku, crossword puzzles (always mostly completed)

Bus/train tickets

Cross stitch samplers

Sketches/artwork/doodles (including a child’s macaroni masterpiece!)

Origami creations

Lists of books to borrow next time

“Honey Do” lists

Cigarettes, not smoked

Drinking straws

Plastic cutlery

Oh yeah, and actual bookmarks of every size and shape, homemade and store-bought.  Besides the obvious (ie: the toilet paper!), we always keep everything in case someone comes by to claim their items.

Do you use an actual bookmark when you read print books, or do you employ whatever is handy?  What is the strangest thing you’ve ever used as a bookmark?