I’m an avid abuser of the library — it beats buying books all the time, though I think I’ve paid about $50 in late fines over the past two years. And now this has all come back to bite me in the ass. Specifically, by 7/11/08, I will have 78 books and DVDs checked out from Seattle Public Library.

How did it come to this?

Personally, I blame the Internet. You see, as I’d read blogs and other websites — though the occasional magazine is also involved — I’d come across a book or movie (from now on, I’ll only write “book”, though it includes movies) and think, “Self, that sounds interesting. I should read/watch that sometime. Maybe I should get it.” Now, in years yonder, I would jot this down in OneNote and promptly forget about it. (There are several hundred items there.) Occasionally, I’d actually buy the book, put it on the shelf, and promptly forget about it.

Buying books is not, as they say, a scalable solution.

Unfortunately, I discovered that the SPL has a nifty system that not only lets you put books on hold, but also suspend the hold so you can delay when the books come to you. I made use of this, until I got to the point where I had 100 items on hold and suspended. After all, I’m a slow reader. I have thousands of blog posts and email messages to read every week. Occasionally, I work. (Coworkers who might be reading this: This is “hyperbole”. Our marketing department indulges in such wankery frequently.) I can’t read stuff as fast as they come in, so the SPL hold system gave me a nice way to control the rate at which came in. (Until I hit the limit; then I started dumping links to books on del.icio.us. (108 links so far. I’m fucked.))

Now there’s one little problem with the hold-suspension system: they become active after the date you set for them, and you can set the date only up to six months in advance. (I have no idea why anyone thought this is a brilliant idea. It’s a fucking pain in the ass.)

So it happened that after two, three years of putting books on hold, on June 30, some 30 or 50 books became active. I thought I dealt with the situation and put them all back on hold, but no. I fucked up. To my dismay, books started piling up for me on the hold shelf. Soon, they had to keep them in a crate behind the circulation desk. Today, there were two crates, and ten on the shelf.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Ahsan, you idiot, why are you making such a big deal of this? You don’t have to check out all of these books. You could’ve just let it go. (And by the way, SPL has a reading list thing where you can put books of interest, without putting them on hold.)”

Yes, yes, that’s true, thank you for pointing that out. You forget that I’m highly neurotic — on the scales measuring various personality traits, it’s the one I ace without peer — and what if I miss something entertaining? educational? life-changing? belly-laugh-inducing?

Could I take a chance on missing out on that?

And asking me to let go of something is like asking Bush to end the Iraq war: Stay the course, or else the terrorists will have won, blah blah blah.

It sounds so much more tedious to laboriously put each book back on hold. If my personal assistant were actually assisting, that would help.

No, I’ll bite the bullet. Obviously I’m not going to read every single word of every single book. Instead, I’m just trying to get the gist, determine whether it’s something I really need, or something I could pass on. I should be done in about two months, with clever use of renewals and other optimizations I’ll detail in another post. I’ll try to blog my follies, trying to avoid incurring any additional late fines, and you can follow along. Here’s what I’m proposing:

Item title.

Amazon link.

Link to Cliff Notes or GetAbstract.


Any clue how this ended up on my reading list.

Thoughts and future plans.