Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Horror that is the DC Public Library, Georgetown Branch

Yesterday, because of a downed tree on Reservoir Road, I was forced to take a different route than normal to get to Wisconsin Ave. This proved fortuitous, as I saw a lovely building on a hill at the corner of R and Wisconsin. The sign outside said, "DC Public Library -- Georgetown Branch," and the building looked regal and expensive. Whenever I move into a new neighborhood, I like to scope out the closest public library, and if it is pleasant, I like to spend a lot of time there. I was looking forward to checking this out. (Ha! Catch the pun? Checking out! the library! Because -- you know -- you check out books at a -- oh, forget it.)

Today I had my chance to check it out. Oh, the horror. How can I explain... okay, remember back when you were in college, how pretty and impressive those frat houses on fraternity row were? With their red bricks and columns and fancy lettering on the front? But then when you got inside, it wasn't AT ALL what you thought it would be, with old, ratty furniture, and the whole place was run down and had a musty smell to it? Because, you know, frat boys don't care about making things look nice; they just want to party and throw up.

(Please direct all hate mail to: who-do-you-think-you-are@frat-boys-are-people-too.org)

Anyway, that's just what this library was like (minus the partying). As soon as I walked in, my reaction was, "You've got to be kidding me." What promised from the outside to be fancy and modern and clean turned out to be old, run down and dirty. There are three largish rooms, literally four or five seats in each room for people to read or study at, and the entire place had a musty stench that made my eyes water and my nose run. The one bathroom in the building is an exact replica of those disgusting bathrooms in a frat house -- paint chipping, cobwebs everywhere, very dirty, and, of course, THE SMELL.

Unfortunately, I had put an hour and forty minutes worth of change in the parking meter, and I was planning on working on my paper. So I couldn't just leave. I walked back and forth between the three rooms looking for a suitable chair. The first room had three chairs at three tables, all of which were taken. The middle room had a row of 8 old terminals, but no place to sit and spread out. The third room had an empty chair, so I decided on that, and when I sat down it creaked so loud that it became apparent this chair was NOT meant to exist in a library. (Shhhhh!) After I finally sat still enough to silence the chair, and opened up my computer and spread out my papers, I realized that there was NO electrical outlet in sight.

Sighing, I stood back up (CREEEEEEAAAAK!!!!!) and walked into the first room, which by now had some empty seats. I sat down again, unpacked all my stuff, and went to plug my computer into the outlet -- which, it turns out, is so old that it only takes a two-pronged plug. I got back up and sat at the table in the middle of the room, but first ensuring that it had a three-pronged outlet in the floor next to it. I unpacked my computer, etc, and plugged into the outlet. The charging light did not go on. I looked around in dismay, looked back at the outlet, and looked back at the light, which was still not on. A woman at the next table over said, "That outlet doesn't work." Now you tell me.

So I moved to her table, which had an extra seat and an extra outlet, which mercifully worked! But by this time, I had been in the musty library for so long that my sniffles were becoming unbearable. I stood up and walked to the librarian's desk.

"Excuse me," I said quietly, "do you have any Kleenex?"
"What??" she said.
I spoke louder. "Kleenex!"
She took a cursory glance at her desk, looked up at me and blinked. "No... sorry..."
"Um, anywhere?"
She blinked twice. "Sorry..."
My nose was rebelling against the mustiness. "Well, what do you suggest?" I asked.
She blinked three times. "Sorry..."

A fitting end to my pathetic experience. Perhaps I'm spoiled, used to the brand new library constructed just a few years ago in my hometown, complete with three stories, a cafe, a hundred computers two hundred and fifty computers, and plentiful seating, all for the value-conscious price of only $38 million.

I tried to spend some time at the Georgetown Branch of the DC Public Library, but the poor lighting and musty smell gave me a headache and made it exceedingly difficult for me to concentrate. And so, thus ends the Great Library Experiment of 2007. One thing is for sure: I will NOT be returning. (Get it? Returning? The library! Because -- you know -- after you "check out" the books, you "return" them at the -- oh, forget it.)

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