I have loved libraries since I was a little boy.  They’ve always been havens of peace and quiet, and of knowledge and entertainment.

I spent more time there as an adolescent student, not just for homework but delving deep into things that would shape my future careers. Living in a capitol city since age nine, I discovered early not only state libraries, but state legal libraries. (Even at age twelve or so, I knew the librarians at the state legal library must have worried about the strange kid who was studying lethal force law, but they were still patient and helpful.)

Every now and then in my present travels, I find a big part of a day free, and if there’s nothing else of interest in town my default is the local public library.  

And before leaving, I always check out the “discarded books for sale” section. Sometimes they’re duplicates of something current that won’t fit on the shelves.  Sometimes they’re titles that didn’t gather much popularity in town, but might be of interest to you or me.

I had the good fortune recently to drop by my current local library on the last day of their annual Book Sale Days. Lo and behold, they were cleaning them out at ten cents per hardcover copy.

Trying not to be a hog, and not owning a wheelbarrow in any case, I limited myself to eleven books.

They all had their book jackets intact, ten of which had their sale price imprinted thereon.  One, a 1992 novel by ex-LAPD detective Joseph Wambaugh that I didn’t remember reading when it came out, curiously didn’t have a price mark. The other ten, though, added up to an average of @23.37 cover price.

I bought those eleven books for a total tally of a dollar bill and a dime.

Did I mention that I’ve always loved libraries?


  1. “I knew the librarians….. must have worried about the strange kid…”

    I know what you mean. I was also fond of our local county library when I was a young man. However, my interest was not in lethal force law. It was in the History of WW II. I had a desire to go straight to primary source material written my the actual leaders of the war.

    I remember my local librarian giving me a “strange look”. It was not the usual thing for a teenager to check out an English translation of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” one week and then come back and check out Winston Churchill’s “The Second World War” the next!

    For what it is worth, I think that Churchill is a much better writer than Hitler. Hitler tends to be dogmatic and repetitive about the points that he is making. Just what you would expect from a Dictator.

    Churchill’s main fault is that he can be long-winded. His full “The Second World War” runs to six(6) volumes and almost 5,000 pages. Needless to say, as a teenager, I did not have the patience to read the whole thing. I checked out the “abridged” version instead. Even it was over a 1,000 pages!

    Still, Churchill is a good enough writer that I was not bored with the abridged version. I read it all the way through.

    • I was reading that Hitler did not write Mein Kampf but the book was actually written by Jesuit Fr. Staempfle. I like to believe that more considering hitler was a incompetent nut case.
      Sinister Forces; Peter Lavenda. [Vatican rat lines]

      • I think it likely that Hitler did write the bulk of Mein Kampf. Certainly, it reflects his ideas.

        However, it is likely that several other people also worked to correct and edit the final product. Among these editors were, as you noted, Bernhard Stempfle (AKA Fr. Staempfle). In addition, Emil Maurice and Rudolf Hess are said to have helped edit the document.

        No doubt, the final work was a bit of a collaborative effort.

    • I was looking in the rearview mirror a few decades back when I learned about Churchill’s World War Two series… first found a rather battered set in paperback, started wiht The Gethring Storm, and was blown away. Not only did I march straight through the set (took some time, but I did) I managed to find each of the hardback editions at different times and places. Still have them but have not reread them yet.
      I had no idea of the complexity and intrigue of that time period. What I learned in school as a yuth and young man was VERY shallow and one sided.
      Since his series I’ve come accross many other books on that period of time, and the overall picture our culture have of that season of conflict is very stunted and narrow.
      I often browse the book sections of Value Village,Salvation Army, etc. thrift stores, and always peruse the books at yeard sales (most of that is the junk pop press… not worth the dime they want for it.)

      • There were two versions; the six-volume one and the abridged three-volume one.

        Other than the first volume, which is mostly incomprehensible British Parliamentary politics, it all boils down to “logistics, logistics, logistics.” All the way down to the farming, fishing, and mining it would take to support a proposed military action planned for years in the future.

  2. During the four decades that I have lived in my little town, the local library has had four head librarians, every one of whom knew me by site and name. One of them actually opened a hour early one day a month so that I could walk my elementary students the half mile from school so that they could pick their own books. Today a new library building is planned and the current librarian has consulted me on features I think are needed this time around. Yes, local libraries are truly magical places that we should treasure and respect. They are worthy of our support.

  3. The librarian I remember (who thankfully was not representative of most helpful librarians) was when I was in sixth grade and we moved to California, (My Army father’s last duty station before retirement.)

    Mom, of course, took my brother and I to the local library to get cards. (Always one of our first stops in a new town.) The librarian showed me the children’s section. (“Little Red Book of…” level). I glanced around, then went to where the books I was interested in were. (“The Pathfinder,” The Last of the Mohicans,” and “The Black Rose” etc.)

    When the librarian noticed me browsing in the “Adult Fiction” section, she came and herded me back to the Children’s books, where I belonged.

    I again escaped to where the real books were.

    The librarian complained to my mother, saying that I surely wasn’t old enough to read such big books, and ordered her to tell me to stay in the Children’s Section.

    Mom politely informed the librarian that I could and did read such books, and furthermore that I could look at any book the library contained, and if I got into a subject I shouldn’t, my parents would correct the situation, not the librarian. And did the librarian understand that? (Mom was an Army lieutenant colonel’s wife: “polite” didn’t mean she failed to make her point.)

    The librarian said, “Yes, Ma’am.” She never did like me much, but she never messed with me again.

    • That’s a GREAT story. Glad you had a Mum that would put your tormenters in their proper places. Such thinking as that librarian had is part of why today’s “yutes’ are so empty headed. Little Red Book of not much at all is for toddlers. IN fact I know a three year old who is bored by that sort. And six/seven year olds gobbing up things like Tom Sawyer, Last of the Mohicans, and KNOW what they’ve read. It is SO much fun to engage in intelligent conversation with a person half or less my height, and cheer them on as they explore new things (to them). These days, “mature” reading is garbage liie Heather Has Two Mommies. No she does not. And the young kids I know understand that. And go find REAL literature. And history. And science. Another ten, twenty years those kids will be running the place. That wil be a good thing.

  4. My God uncle Mas, I could have written most of this one myself, being as my mom was a public health librarian in Winnipeg, and made sure to pass the love on to me. My favorite pastime as a kid other than ice hockey? Going to the library on a Saturday afternoon and devouring as many out of town newspapers as possible.

  5. My wife and I *met* in our college library. I guess each of us was trying to plough through some boring required reading when we simultaneously looked up, our eyes met, and one invited the other for a kebab from the food truck outside. To this day we argue about who invited whom…

  6. Memories. Way back a local librarian challenged my choice of books a being “TOO ADULT”, since I was probably 10 years old or younger.. I “randomly” flipped open a book in my hand and read some text and explained what it meant. I seem to recall that it had something to do with “weapons and tactics of the Korean War”. I explained what a “deuce 40 mm Bofors mount” was. They left me alone after that. They didn’t even call my parents. Lucky for them. My Mother would have explained some things for them, in no uncertain terms.

  7. I love the way books smell! Especially the older ones. I always take a deep breath, and smile, and find that feeling of peace you mention, when i walk into a library or used book store!

    Mas you just gave me one more reason to completely relate to you!


  8. I will give you my book when you pry it from my cold dead hands. Libraries are still cancel culture resistant for the time being.

  9. I, too, read all six volumes of Churchill’s Second World War when I was young.

    I was particularly taken by Churchill’s reported writing technique for those volumes. He would sit and dictate for several hours every day to a stenographer, who would then type it up. The written copy would be given to a research assistant, who had full security clearance and access to the official government records, who would go through and verify every fact Churchill had dictated from memory and make any necessary corrections. Then an editorial assistant would clean it up as needed. The final copy would be given to Churchill for final approval and any changes he wanted to make.

    I wish I had a system like that for writing books!

    Last time I was at a library sale, I got Churchill’s four volume History of the English Speaking Peoples for $10

  10. I resisted getting a smart phone for years & have no interest in Facebook, Twitter, et. al. Having been finally brow beaten into an I phone by wife & son, I found one redeeming feature-I can access electronic books from the library system at any time I choose.

  11. My guess is that “Capote in Kansas” is about Truman Capote. I know he travelled there with Harper Lee to do his research for “In Cold Blood.” It is one of the best books I ever read- and I did so in just a few hours. Extremely well-written and a fascinating, albeit tragic, story.

    Stories like this is why I always have at least one handgun on me…even at home.

    • Vin From NY, you may know that Truman Capote used to appear on Johnny Carson from time to time. One of the spookiest talk show guests on record, but undoubtedly a great writer. “In Cold Blood” may have promoted more self-defense gun sales than any other American single book, and for good reason. No limit obtains to the depths of stupid depravity to which some criminals can sink, like those in the book. Especially bad politicians, similar bureaucrats, and Hollywood maniacs. I’m going to check the book out at the local library after I finish all the at least nearly great Jack Reacher novels I checked out last time. Thanks for reminding us of Capote and Harper Lee, the latter with whom I am unfamiliar.

  12. If you can find any of the four books that Pvt. Don Burgett wrote as a mamber of Co. A, 506th Parachute Infantry Reg,. 101st Airborne, and you HAVEN’T read it. GRAB IT!!

  13. The closest story I have to compare about libraries was from college. The college library ran out of room and trashed a bunch of old books. A buddy and I dumpster raided. I came away with a couple of early 20th Century physics books (still have) autographed by the owner, who had established the Physics Department at the school. According to them, the speed of light would never be determined, the speed of sound was different and not a hint of atomic stuff. That’s all from memory, I expect there’s other stuff in there. A couple of other books too. I’ve got a book on “Modern Aircraft” from the perspective of the early 1930’s. Big section on airships.

    I did, however, learn to haunt the places that sold remainder books (no cover) and used books. A truly fascinating book is Churchhill’s “The River War” about the conquest/reconquest of the Sudan. One of the things that struck me was that the Brits managed to get their “protectorates” to pay for the wars they fought to establish/keep them. While the US doesn’t operate in the same manner, one would think someone could figure out how to get the protectees to pony up!

    You don’t speed read Churchill! And say what you will about the bulk of folks in yesteryear, they seemed-from their letters-to be a more literate lot that what our schools turn out today. Unless editors were in play.

    • @ WR Moore – “According to them, the speed of light would never be determined, the speed of sound was different and not a hint of atomic stuff.”

      Your comment reminds me of another one of my early “library” experiences. In addition to material on WW II, I was also interested in technology. I remember reading one book, written in the 1930’s, in which the author (a serious scientist) undertook to predict the future of technology over the course of the rest of the 20th Century. His predictions were a mix of “safe bets” and “off-the-wall guesses”. However, one of his predictions did make me stop and reflect. That is why I still remember it.

      He predicted that no airplane would ever exceed the speed of sound. He gave a scientific reason for his prediction. His reason was that the propeller of an airplane would have to turn so fast, to drive the airplane at supersonic speeds, that the resulting turbulence would make the propeller too inefficient. This loss-of-efficiency would prevent the airplane from ever attaining such speeds.

      In this, he was probably correct. None of the propeller driven airplanes (even in WW II) really broke the sound barrier. Some fighters could come close in a dive but tended to become unstable, while doing so, thereby giving weight to his prediction.

      Of course, this prediction is a failure because of the development of jet engines. He could not foresee this development of an “outside the box” technology that raised airplane flight to a whole new level. His failed prediction taught me that new technologies can change all the old rules. They are “wildcards” that make predicting the future, even by a sober and intelligent person, a fool’s errand.

      BTW, I have also read Churchhill’s book “The River War”. I agree that it is an excellent read for anyone interested in History and Warfare.

      • I believe I read a book on aircraft that stated that the tips of propellers/rotors can’t exceed the speed of sound. Don’t recall the source, but the concept seems sound.

        I don’t believe I’ve ever seen an engine speed specification for any of the piston powered aircraft engines.

      • I recall the fib that a British Spitfire was the first aircraft to break the sound barrier. Supposedly accomplished in a dive. This falsehood seems to still obtain here and there. Maybe the premature and erroneous calculation of what the speed of sound would be could have figured in the equation somehow.

  14. Ah the local library, one of my favorite places. I read about a book a week so I’m there a lot as I rarely buy books anymore except from the Book Barn in the basement, every book a dollar with frequent 2 or 3 for 1 sales. Plus we borrow most of our DVDs from there. I recently told my mother how grateful I was that she allowed my brother and I to stay up half an hour after our bedtime but only if we spent it reading. Brilliant. One of my cop buddies once remarked (after I mentioned a recent trip to the library): “RetDet is a real American; he goes to the library!”

  15. Mas, I’ve enjoyed reading you and hearing you speak, you are an authority. But what I admire about you on top of that is your curiosity to understand. So many people simply accept things at face value, no questioning, they won’t think through ideas or explore. It is evident you genuinely love to learn.

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

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