Spring in the Library
Actually, the change in the weather is not the only change noticeable at the library of late. The librarians have begun to recognize me.
It must be explained that the procedure at the Národní knihovna is to surrender one’s library card in exchange for books. When departing and returning the books (whether for good or putting them on reserve for next time), one tells the librarian one’s last name so they can find the card in the alphabetized sections. For a good many months, then, many of the librarians not only showed no sign of recognizing my face (not surprising considering how many people go there), but seemed incapable of understanding my name. Sometimes I actually had to write it down so that they could look under the correct letter. Since my name is of German origin and in practice is just as Czech as it is German (plenty of Czechs have either my first or my last name), this always struck me as bizarre. If nothing else, it was tiresome to have to keep repeating my name in a near-whisper.
Over the last few weeks, however, quite a few librarians have suddenly learned my name so well that they pull my card before I can say a word. Some of them are friendly and some are simply efficient. Well—some of them have always been friendly whether or not they knew my name. But even some of the most dour librarians now seem to leap to present me with my card. It is most remarkable.
I am not sure what has brought this about. Is it merely that they see me four or five days a week? Or is it that they have decided I request a very odd collection of items? I suppose that quite a few people read First Republic periodicals, but not so many of them are examining works on prostitution in the twenties, the 1930s Czechoslovak gay movement, and early twentieth-century art, all at the same time.
We can only wonder.