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Aga Popęda here, taking a break from reading on the couch all day. 

Recently, I had a chance to resume one of my favorite activities: browsing through (and reading) library books. As a recent transplant to the area, I went to the newly reopened Monterey Public Library, where I learned about the complex library system in Monterey County.

That is: The Monterey library provides for an automatic access to the Pacific Grove Public Library, but none of them is affiliated with Monterey County Free Libraries, nor with libraries in Carmel or Salinas, etc. Complex or not, the network is extensive and now fully in operation—Monterey Public Library is now open 10am-6pm Tuesday through Saturday and the Pacific Grove Public Library is having a celebration on Saturday, Sept. 18 to reopen its newly renovated space

As a consummate reader, who has “lived” in various libraries around the world, I have a quick and undoubtedly unfair method of deciding how good a library is. Full disclosure, the measurement is conducted in the context of so-called adult fiction, as libraries like to label the thing. It is also done manually, since computer browsing takes away from the pleasures of the hunt. 

Here’s the method: you pick three titles that you really want to read and head for the shelves. Be bold. Also, be prepared for disappointment. Maybe you will find an earlier book by the same author...Or, more commonly, an empty place where the book you are looking for should be. 

Full disclosure #2: After I was done chatting with the librarians, I had only 15 minutes to find books and check them out before the library closed. I decided to go for something easy and not very recent… The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht that I recently saw on someone’s bookshelf and my heart squeezed a little. Oh, this moment of uncertainty—is the book there, somewhere between OBA and OCA? There it was. How about Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station? There it was too! 

Final round. Recently, I finished My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh and was blown away. Why not read something else by this young novelist? To my surprise, on the bookshelf I found not only Death in Her Hands by Moshfesgh (never heard of it!), but also a copy of My Year of Rest. I was done in seven minutes and had time to go back to the librarian and bother her with more questions. 

Yes, readers are back, she said. They were careful at first, but now things are pretty much back to normal. Library book lovers are back among shelves, convinced that there’s something magical about book circulation in the community, yellowing pages and smells of many households trapped forever between covers. 

See you in the libraries around the county!

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