I can’t count the hours I spent haunting big-city libraries as a young man. During the decade I spent working on The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken I had access to the closed stacks of the main branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, and I checked out books by the bagful.
Alas, I no longer go to Baltimore each week, nor do I have access to the stacks of a university library, and the branch of the New York Public Library located in my neighborhood is roughly the size of the one in Smalltown, U.S.A., on which I cut my teeth forty years ago. When I need information, I now look first to the Web, then to my personal library, which is small but choice. Should those alternatives fail to satisfy me, I walk two blocks to a very large Barnes & Noble and explore its shelves. If that doesn’t do it, I do without, or order a used copy of the book in question from amazon.com.
I wonder how common my experience is….
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