Robert Mixner: Thanks to the library for serving varied interests

The library has a 50-item checkout limit, and I am, almost always, bumping up against that limit, only a book return away from oblivion. At the same time, for the past few years, I’ve read about 50 books a year. I’m sure you can do the math. (Even I can do the math, and I was a history major.)

Set aside that, in the first sentence, I said “items” — this includes DVDs, magazines, and anything else the library checks out — and in the second sentence I said “books.” I do check out some other “items,” but mostly, I check out are books. Maybe you’re familiar with someone like this. Maybe you’re one yourself.

So what’s up? Are we posers, hauling around massive amounts of books so we can look smart, but never getting around to reading them? Are we a weird subset of hoarder? Maybe (at least to the second theory). But it’s also one of the things I like most about the library — that any patron can explore wherever their interests take them.

Recently, I was reading the book “The Square and the Tower” by Niall Ferguson, which is a history book about network theory, and how human networks have influenced events over time. This book took a good chunk of the year to read (I even ran out of renewals and had to return it), and it got me reading other books on the social theory of human connection, like Nicholas Christakis’s books “Blueprint” and “Connected” (I’m still working on these), which made me interested other writing on how our biology and neurology relates to how humans have created civilization, books like Mark Pagel’s “Wired for Culture” (haven’t finished yet), or related books like Eric Weiner’s “The Geography of Genius” (yes, I have finished this one). Anyway, my point is, you can see how this gets out of hand. Some books end up getting returned, to be revisited later, while others are followed through to the end.

If this is the way you read — and not just with nonfiction, as fiction can spiral this way, with both ideas and authors — I hope the library’s been able to facilitate your habit in a way that you’ve found helpful. This idea of exploration is also why we’ve been adding more new items, such as video games and musical instruments, and will be adding others in the near future.

Since this column will be published in November, I’d like to briefly say that I’m thankful for all the people who make the library what it is. By this I’m including my co-workers, and also the patrons. It’s traditional to think of a library as being what it contains, and, with Columbus’ focus on architecture, it’s easy to think of the library as a building. However, books and buildings don’t matter unless people care about them. Thank you for caring. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, everyone.