Sitting at my desk top computer, going through the complicated routine of downloading books from the Library For The Blind, I reflected on how going to the library has changed over my lifetime. Id love to be transported back to my neighborhood library, where I spent countless afternoons after school. There was not the airy feeling of modern libraries, but a feeling of cozy intimacy with wood, paper, and leather. There was a slight musty smell mixed with the fragrance of furniture polish and wet wool, especially on winter afternoons. Thousands of books offered themselves to me, but I always went straight for the shelf that held the books for my grade level. The librarian was always a very old woman, whose glasses hung around her neck. The only sound you could hear would be the squeak of the front door, the whisper of a page turning, and the thwump of the date stamp as a book was being checked out. It was a haven for readers and for a little girl who needed a safe place to wait for her mom to get off work, so they could take the bus home together.
Now, as my Windoweyes speech softwear yammered on, I arrowed down the page to select a title, hit enter on the link that said download this book, then held down the alt key and tapped the S for save, and continued with the rest of the process. Find my download folder. Go to the context menu, and arrow up until I hear extract all. Then tab to extract. All this gibberish means unzip the file, so it becomes an audio file that you can actually listen to. Then highlight the unzipped folder, copy it, and paste it onto the digital cartridge that goes into the Library of Congress-issued digital book player.
I spent an hour, arrowing, tabbing, hitting enter, just like I knew what I was doing. All was going well, and when I was finished, I had about 20 books to choose from on my player. Pippen snoozed contentedly as the computer droned on. Shes used to that sound. What upsets her is when things dont go so well, and I start to swear. Oh, come on. Admit it. Everybody swears at their computers. What do you mean, this website doesnt exist? Whats wrong with my password this time? What in the blank happened to that file? Why in the blank is it doing this to me? I often dont realize Im yelling until I feel Pippens nose under my arm. She is trying to tell me that it will all be okay if I just stop everything and pet her. The thing is, shes probably right. My boiling point is very low when it comes to navigating websites, even ones that are specifically for people who are blind. Still, the quality and convenience of the digital books far exceed the frustration factor, so every now and then, I just sit down and take a virtual trip to the library and load up on some good books. Its not nearly as pleasant as visiting that old library of my childhood, but for this trip, I dont even have to put on my shoes.