In a recent post, I wrote about a library card fine that wouldn’t go away.
… with a huge pile of books in front of me (my kids are book junkies) and wer’re already five minutes later for a piano lesson, I get a loud error message from the self-checkout machine at the library. After consulting with the human librarian and her more informed computer, it turned out that the fine had not been paid, though I knew for sure that I’d put it through. We managed to check out the books on one of the kids’ cards attached to my file and once again the issue of the library fine was pushed to the back of my mind.
I thought this story deserved a closer look. How did this event come to pass, what happened after, and what does ADD have to do with it?
Here is a timeline of a person with ADHD visiting a library.
4:30pm – Arrival
You go in thinking you’ll find a couple of new night-table books. The kids scatter but you never even make it to the shelves. You cull from the displays that start at the front entrance and continue for the first thirty feet of the floor plan and your hands are full by the time you get to the actual stacks. Add in the requests that have come in and are waiting for me to pick them up, and you’ve got enough paper to kindle a winter’s worth of hearth fires (in theory. I don’t burn books in real life). Fortunately, the library provides convenient little shopping baskets with handles and wheels.
You urge children off the computers where they’ve been playing ‘educational games’ since their arrival (most of which involve choosing outfits for Dora the Explorer). They complain that they haven’t had any time to get books and so you give them a five minute extension.
You look up from the magazine you’ve been flipping through to find the kids back at the computers. Each one has a basket full of books and DVDs they’re planning on checking out. You now have enough books to build a house for one of the three little pigs.
You’re trying to check out but find that your library card is blocked, as in the scenario described above. The librarian informs you that there are currently 68 books checked out on your account, out of a maximum allowance of 100. You pay the $20 fine, whittle down the kid’s book selections to an acceptable number, and get out, each of you lugging a tote bag with your selections. Yours contains a hodgepodge of everything that caught your eye from the moment you walked into the library. There’s leisure reading, get-rich-quick books, and enormous volumes on interior design, most of which will not get read, and many of which you will lose for longer than the 10 permitted renewals at two week intervals- and that’s if you’re lucky.
Two weeks later
You have read only the leisure books, mostly on stolen time when you should have been getting the kids ready for school in the morning or late at night when you should have been sleeping. The library sends you a text message reminding you to renew. You text back RA for Renew All but in their response, the library sends you a list of two books that can not be renewed because a request has been made for them by someone else in the system and one (from a library trip some months ago) that can’t be renewed because it’s already overdue.
You set out to find the non-renewable books. You start by looking under the bed and behind the couch. You can also take a look through the play room where the kids may have borrowed a hardcover or ten to create a terraced landscape for their hot wheels tracks. You check the bookcase where a well meaning spouse or housekeeper has been known to shelve the books you left strewn on the courch amongst the books you actually own- sometimes with the spine facing the wall. Lost kid’s books are the worst because there are hundreds of picture books at home, which are kept in four different locations around the house. Junior Fiction serials like Geronimo Stiltons are also annoying because, to you, they all look the same and the titles are all equally punny and you can’t remember which ones the kids told you not to return.
A Week Later
After driving around with the non-renewable books in your car for a week– at least, with the two out of three that you can find, you finally remember to stop at the library and put them in the drop box.
A Week or So After That
You round up all of the library books you can find in your house and drop them in the drop box because you are going away on vacation and you don’t want to be stuck with any fines.
First Day of Vacation
You get a text saying that one DVD is overdue. You know you returned everything you had… and you specifically remember that DVD.
A Couple of Months Later
You haven’t been to the library in a while. You were away and then you got busy with other things. You get a letter in the mail from the library, which you lose. You then get another letter in the mail from a collections agency, demanding payment for the library fine and the lost DVD.
You find the missing DVD in your car. The actual disk is in the player, and the case is wedged between two seats. You drop it in the library drop box after dark so that the staff will not recognize you. Shamefacedly, you skulk away, restricting your reading material to ad-bogged truthy-like internet news that requires you to click through seventeen different images, each accompanied by several words of leading text, before you discover Why You Should Never Make Your Own Kombucha At Home.
The Breakdown (of why this is ADD related. Not the breakdown you suffer as a result of your lack of librarical skills.):
- In terms of being an advantage or a disadvantage, the lack of inhibition in people with ADHD is a grey zone. On one hand, you struggle to control your impulses and not dominate polite dinner table conversation, and on the other hand you are not afraid to jump in, try new things, and get dirty. Wayne Gretzky said that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, but he never said when you take 100% of the shots that come your way. That’s me.
The way this all plays out in the library is that you choose waaaay too many books. More than you will be likely to read, more than you can keep track of, and more than you can carry in one trip to the car.
- There are some tasks that just don’t seem big enough to put on the to-do list. ‘Return Library Books’ is one of them, because it’s right on your way to pick up the kids, so you’ll definitely remember when you pass by– right? No, because when you drive by the library you’ll probably be late for pickup, or else your multitasking mind will have switched to some other topic, even though you intended to make the stop when you set out from your house three minutes before.
- You might have even put it on a to-do list, and even brought the list with you, but you neglected to check it after your last errand and, since you have trouble prioritizing, some other task, such as remembering to buy milk for tomorrow, has taken precedence in your head and all you can think about is getting to the grocery store, though that particular task is two slots down the list you carefully laid out that morning.
- You may have systems in place, such as keeping library books on a particular shelf or setting time limits for your kids’ activities, but there are limits to how far these practices can take you. Unless everyone in your home is on board, it’s hard to reinforce the guidelines you’ve put in place, and it’s even harder to enforce them when you’re the one with ADD because of the extra effort you’re busy putting in to other areas of your life, just to keep things moving more or less smoothly for the family.
I am not actually embarrassed to use my local library, but most of the scenario above is pretty accurate. I am pretty good at getting most of my — and my kid’s and my husband’s– library materials back to the library– most of the time. I’ve learned to file this issue under the ‘Molehill’ section in The Greater Scheme Of Things when it comes to my life.