Today I write from the William K. Sanford Library in Colonie, NY. From the picture, you can see it’s of the same era of my hometown library, Waterford Public. And, in fact, when I walked in, I was immediately transported back to my days as a page. I even almost took one of the book trucks and started reshelving.

As with the Saratoga Public Library (let’s give you a link right here), this place is quite popular. When I pulled up the driveway at 8:55 a.m., there was already a line of people waiting at the door. Within two minutes of its official 9 a.m. opening time (i.e., the time it took for me to finish my coffee), a stream of cars began pouring into the parking lot. Yay, NY public libraries! Yay, NY public library lovers!

Upon walking in it was clear to see that one of the popular items was, unsurprisingly, the public Internet stations. All the spots were taken within 10 minutes of the library’s opening. Happily, I had my laptop with me; even more happily, the wireless access worked right away. (Speaking of which, I do have to say that the library’s website leaves a bit to be desired. After hunting through the not-so-pretty pages for ten minutes, I was unable to definitively determine whether or not there was wireless access. Which, by the way, was a lesson in ‘Ask Your Friendly Librarian.’ When I went up to the Information Desk at the Saratoga library to ask if all the NY public libraries had wireless access [no], and then asked how I could find out which ones did, she suggested the radical notion of picking up the phone and calling. Frighteningly, that hadn’t even occurred to me.)

The sad part is that, unlike at Saratoga, there doesn’t appear to be a large amount of places that you can easily set up and get power. The one place I was able to find is almost directly under the HVAC vent, the “H” — i.e., “heat” — being the prevalent letter of the day. Although I was a bit cold yesterday due to the AC on a 65 degree day, I much prefer that to my current feeling of sticky and clammy. Blech. I can go outside to feel that. The other sad part is that Colonie does not appear to throw the same amount of funding towards its library as does Saratoga. The seats are decidedly late 70s/early 80s, and the rest of the furniture is of similar provenance. Unlike the huge windows in Saratoga, this building was designed during the lovely moment in time where architects felt that if you were inside, you shouldn’t be thinking about being anywhere else. Therefore, all that is available are the tall, narrow windows that make me feel like I’m on the inside of a fort.

(Hey, let’s try that newfangled technology thing again! Make it work, Camera Phone.)

(Alas, Tim Gunn. I cannot. Although my phone insists the picture has been sent, my email does not acknowledge the same. If/when it comes through, I will post it here.)

Update: The picture just came through.

At your battle stations!

At your battle stations!

I also haven’t come across one of those Used Book rooms like at Saratoga and in tiny Richmond, MA, that I love so much. Man, I am wishing that I’d just bought up all those series books Lucy likes for 25 cents a pop. I may have to send Kelley back there when he’s in Saratoga again on Thursday morning. (I’m also chastising myself for not buying the copy of the Dick/Felix Francis book that literally looked like it had never been open. That whole psychological thing of bargain-shopping is interesting. In a Borders, a $5 book seems like a steal. In a library, where it’s the most expensive thing on the shelf, it feels like you’re being robbed. Damn it, Jennifer. Support your local library! I am so sending Kelley back to buy it.)

That said, it is wonderful to be reminded of the services that libraries can and do perform for their peeps. Need a place to hang out for the day and get some work done? You can find it at your local library.

I’m sitting here in the Saratoga Springs Public Library and have finally done all my Facebook checking, email scanning, and twittering. Although I do feel that I should be being a bit more productive, this is a vacation day after all. The fact that it is 12:15 and I haven’t accomplished anything beyond that is not a problem.

The question now, of course, is what to do next. Should I step into the cafe to have a bite to eat? Head over to the “Used Book Room” (which is actually two rooms) and spend some money on more paperbacks that I won’t have time to read? Attack the piles of papers in my backpack, some of which have literally been sitting there for a year (as I distinctly remember being in this very library last August with similarly productive intentions)? Continue to procrastinate and write more posts in the blog? Choices, choices, choices…

2:30 p.m.

Well, reader, I decided to have a snack. The nice thing about this particular library is that it has a cafe in it; and in the cafe, it still has access to the wifi. One granola bar and a string cheese later, I wandered around a bit, trying to find a suitable location to hang out for the rest of the day. The cafe was high on the list of possibilities, but it seemed a bit too social. The absolute last thing I want today is to have someone who I don’t know chatting me up; and since I seem to have a neon sign that hangs over me flashing ‘Get Your Mindless Conversation Here!’ I thought it better not to take the chance.

I found my spot in the Young Adult section (with an actual neon sign). I’m attempting to send a picture of it to myself right now.

Oh my gosh. It actually worked. Sure, it’s a blob of light, but still – is technology not the neatest thing? I’m blowing myself away. Must post it here:

The "Young Adults" sign at the Saratoga Springs public library.

The "Young Adults" sign at the Saratoga Springs public library.

O.k. That was fun. Moving on…

I have to say – I’d forgotten how much I love libraries. I know that’s odd coming from me, the person with the degree in Library and Information Science, but I think that in a way I’m much too close to libraries to think about them much. And when closer to home, it’s hard to be in one without running into someone I know. Even at the big BPL in Copley Square, I probably know at least half the librarians there. Forget the A/B branch libraries – those are a minefield.

Here in Saratoga, though, I am reminded about what a wonderful place a public library is. There are people of all shapes (darn, how I wish I hadn’t worn the shorts that are a bit snug), sizes (from the 18″ tall toddler, to the six+ foot man I saw earlier), ages, nationalities, etc. Why, here in the young adult section, I see two teenagers, one 30+-yr-old (o.k., 38-yr-old me), and four folks well into AARP territory. The coolest thing? The twenty-something fraternity boy type sitting on a bench at the end of the row and reading from his stack of hardcovers.

As you might have guessed, I found what I consider to be the perfect spot — hanging back in the corner, but on the first floor so that I hear all the activity around me. And maybe it’s the way they designed it (meaning that there isn’t a preponderance of seating), but it feels like this place is beyond hopping. Not just the ongoing chatter at the circulation desk, but every seat I see is taken. It’s only fifteen minutes away from the time when I can check into the hotel room, but I’m not sure I want to leave. It’s the perfect place to be around people and yet be impersonal.

The other thing, of course, is the books. As much as I adore our little local branch, there’s something about endless rows of books — all there for the taking — that is just wonderful. Since this isn’t my home state, I dare not even browse as it will be too tempting. That said, there’s still the Used Book room (full of barely read paperbacks on sale for $1 each). I might have to tear myself away from this seat yet.

As to other things, I decided to work on old email. Managed to get through April 15, 2006 in the Inbox; sadly discovered that I still go back to February 06 in my “Sent Items” folder. And what a February oh-six was. Geesh.

Well, three pages of “Sent Items” down, 487 to go.