Here's an interesting fact:
This weekend, I paid a visit to the larger of 2 branches of the Toronto Public Library that are within walking distance of my house.
I was refused a library card because I don't have 2 pieces of identification with my new address on them. In fact, I don't have 2 pieces of id with my old address on them, because as a non-driver, my health card is the only identification that I carry. The librarian said that a utility bill or a bank statement could be substituted for the second piece of id...but of course, my rent is all-inclusive (ie, no utility bill) and guess what? You can't open a new bank account without 2 pieces of id either.
I asked if there was another way to get a library card, and she said that I could pay for a non-residents' card.
And how much is that, I asked.
Oh, it's $25 for 3 months, dear, but you don't want to pay that. You live just down the street, for you it's free!
So there you have it. The hypothetical library card that I can't get is free.
But then I was foolish enough to return to the library today, intending to photocopy my resume.
I asked the librarian (the very same one) if there was a copier for public use.
Here it is, she told me, it costs 20 cents per copy if I was using coin, or I could purchase a $1 copy card and get a rate of 15 cents per sheet.
I'll take a copy card, then, I told her.
Oh, she said, actually it's just your library card.
I haven't got one, I reminded her. I guess I'll just use coin.
Well, she told me, I can't really let you use it if I know you haven't got a card.
And once again, I went home empty-handed, with a lingering question bouncing around inside my head:
what exactly does public mean?
Because the Toronto Libraries are certainly not Public, despite the sign above the door.
It's a very exclusive club, for card-carrying members only, run by old white ladies who refuse access to what I can only assume is a great number of the very community in which the library is situated. Weren't places like this done away with during abolition?
Because let's face it - this neighbourhood is pretty much 100% rental. The landlords, who employ management companies to collect rent for them so they don't have to set foot in this place, and who have since retired rather grandly to sunnier places, would be entitled to a library card should they for some reason ever return to the city and suddenly wonder what Harry Potter has been up to. But those of us who live and work here, not so much. Even our dimes are not fit for the copy machine.
Our rent pays the taxes that keeps this building heated or cooled, keeps the little old ladies in a steady supply of cardigan sweaters no matter the weather, keeps the collection of books that we can't read growing at a steady pace. I didn't need this much paperwork to get security clearance for the government! And my friend informs me that we can't work there, either, although as far as I can see, the work seems to consist primarily of dusting. According to her, a degree in library sciences is required before you can even apply to refuse people the right to read. I wickedly imagined what a course in library sciences might consist of -
A comes before B, which comes before C....no, no, don't bother writing this down. The thing is, if you never let anyone borrow a book, you'll never have to reshelve it (evil cackles all around).
By the time I got home, without book and without copy, I was in such a stew that I threw myself face-down on the bed and thought the whole damned universe is against me. I'm not even a member of the public anymore!
And I think I would have gladly stayed there, angry and near-suffocation, had my overflowing laundry hamper not been calling my name. So I stripped out of my clothes and threw them in too, and dug down deep into my underwear drawer for something to wear in the meantime, pulling out what I like to call a pair of my "fancy panties". And it was the happy underwear that saved the day.
This time, when I left the house, the sun shone brighter and the sidewalk teemed with smilier people. As I walked along, my boobs jiggled enormously in an unsupportive barely-there bra that is totally impractical and well-loved for that reason exactly, and my tush may not have been encased in the comfort of excessive cotton, but I knew it was framed delightfully, and I felt I was doing quite a service to all those who walked behind me. The library may not have me as a member, but I had a new friend who'd been willing to lend me books without so much as asking to see a single credential, and while my dimes were turned away in one place, Kinkos was always happy to take my money...and not only that, they actually say Come again! (and mean it) when the little bell tinkles as I head out the door.