clandestine reading

I’ve spent the last two days doing a much needed complete top-to-toe tidy of the library, during which I have, with a little regret, correctly reshelved the hidden books. Over the years I have spotted three species of book-hider, and it has been difficult to establish the individual characteristics because none of the varieties make a lot of fuss about it – that’s the whole point.

Type one hide books because their library ticket is already full, they have three things on the reserve shelf and they have found something else that they absolutely have to read. They hide the book so that no-one else can get hold of it before they do. These books don’t stay hidden for long, because type one hiders read a lot, and usually very very fast, so they’ll be in to collect their hidden book (along with the three on the reserve shelf) the next day. I was an occasional type one book hider when I was younger, but my local library were more efficient shelf tidiers than me, and I gave up because the books had always gone when I came back for them!

Type two are those who read in the library but don’t want to take the books home. There are many reasons for this – they might not want to carry them around, it might bad for their street-cred to be seen with a b**k, or they might not have anywhere quiet and comfortable to read at home. These hiders tend to hide the book in roughly the same area, but the book mark in it will move, or it’ll go in a very slightly different place, so I know it is actually being read. If I possibly can, I try to be sympathetic and leave those alone. Mostly they get un-hidden when they’re finished with, and if not I usually spot that they haven’t moved for a week or so and fish them out. Type two can cause me moral problems – what should I do if I know there’s an underground copy of The Hunger Games behind volume 5 of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and someone else requests it? Two weeks ago I stuck a post-it note on The Perks of Being a Wallflower (between the hard drive and the wall behind computer number 6) which said “Please could you hand this in to the librarian when you’ve finished it? There is a waiting list.” It mysteriously appeared in my in-tray a few days later, and An Abundance of Katherines is now wedged behind that particular PC. I left it there.

The third type of book-hiders are the malicious. They show no skill or whimsy in where the books are secreted, but a great deal of aptitude in the actual act of hiding them. They will take handfuls of books from one shelf and stick them on another, and I never ever catch them in the act. I even know who some of them are, but I still cannot actually accuse them because they have the ninja bit down to a fine art, and I have no proof.

They’re probably the same kids who steal the blue sticky-up-stuff from behind my posters one corner at at time until the posters fall down overnight because there’s only a micron of blue stuff holding them up!

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