Government Depository Libraries

Government Depository Libraries

Every major university’s library, public and private, is a government depository library. This means they have to give you access if you say you’re going to consult the government collection. Usually I just ask what floor it’s on and then don’t bother to go there. Instead I head for periodicals, grab what I can carry and find a comfortable chair to read in.

Unfortunately, there is not always an accessible government depository library nearby and sometimes you have to make do with a county or even a municipal library. Finding a comfortable chair in a municipal library, whether in Miami or Santa Monica, has always been a challenge.

A few years ago, I found myself walking down Wilshire Boulevard and there it was: the Santa Monica library, conveniently located across the street from a Goodwill Industries outlet. With a few hours to kill, how could I not go in?

The homeless had taken over all the comfortable chairs in the Santa Monica library and most of them were simply sleeping. Libraries are popular with recent parolees and those on probation and this one is no exception. Probation officers do not object to their supervisees spending time in a library and those who have released from prison enjoy reading books that are not censored by the prison authorities. Censorship in the library is exercised only in the section where a terminal and an Internet connection are on offer. These are extremely popular; people have to line up to get access.

Finding a place to read in the library is a challenge. I found a few comfortable chairs in a separate, empty section of the library and couldn’t understand why the homeless hadn’t commandeered it. Turned out there was a “Teens Only” sign that I had overlooked. I wondered why the staff looked strangely at me when I sat down to read my periodicals. My guess is that they were told not to engage with non-patrons and I must have looked homeless myself.

At least no one called the police on me for being a predator, but then again, the teen patrons were nowhere to be seen. Back in the adult section, someone had vomited near the book checkout. “I didn’t study library science for this,” I heard one of the staff say as she maneuvered a mop. I dunno: LA, Bukowski–maybe this was some kind of a twisted tribute. Vomiting can be contagious but fortunately no one else joined in.