Thursday, December 16, 2010


USA Today recently carried an article about the service libraries are offering to the homeless. I applaud the efforts of those fine institutions to provide services to the community. The article notes that libraries have long been a safe haven from the cold and elements to homeless individuals.

However, that is the reason that I have limited my use of my local public library. I am a vain person, and find it very uncomfortable to show up at my library to look over the selection of books, only to see the knowing glances, and hearing the surreptitious whisperings of librarians and patrons alike. “Aha, there is a homeless fellow now. I wonder what services we can offer him to help ease his pain. To help him engage community based services. To find appropriate housing.”

Finally, one of the library staff musters the courage to engage me directly in conversation. “Can I be of assistance?” she timidly inquires.

“Yes” I reply, “I am looking for a book on subatomic particles. Specifically quarks.”

The look on her face tells the whole story, she is not only convinced that I am homeless, but she also now questions my mental health. I am not sure if it's the request for a physics text, or her confusion over what she perceives as a reference to the TV show from the 1970's, Mork and Mindy.

She scurries off, while I keep scrolling through physics titles on the database, searching for just the right book. After a few moments, she returns with a stack of pamphlets, a cup of coffee, and a sandwich. “Here are some resources for looking for jobs and housing.” She informs me, positively beaming at her chance to help society's less fortunate.

I stare blankly, but thank her for the information. I sip the coffee and munch the sandwich when the perfect title pops up on the screen, Quarks; the stuff of matter and I wonder to myself, does it matter that I am not homeless and still eating someone elses sandwich?

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