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Pins And Needles: Keep It Simple, Sam

..I must have been around ten when I broke away from the children's quarters and wandered up and down the aisles, back and forth, in and out, left and right. There were books all over the place. If I wanted to read them all, and I did, I had to get started...

Gloria MacKay illuminates the wonder and delight of books and libraries.

It wasnít as though I was chasing facts in the fast lane and went out of control. I drove off the information highway before I knew computers existed, before there was an internet,before I had a driverís license. It was perfectly legal; I had a library card.

The library was my favorite place. Before I could read I would hang around the childrenís section, bending low and stretching high, checking-in and checking-out, smiling at the lady, whispering to a friend.

I must have been around ten when I broke away from the children's quarters and wandered up and down the aisles, back and forth, in and out, left and right. There were books all over the place. If I wanted to read them all, and I did, I had to get started.

My teachers said before you begin a project you should have a plan and before you make a plan you need to get organized. The organization took care of itself. I would begin with the books I could reach. My plan was to read the oldest looking books first, then work my way forward in time to the slick, shiny temptations on the table by the door. I wondered if anybody ever checked out the upstarts before they finished reading all the books that had been written before? I hadn't yet studied philosophy, but if I had, "Every dog has its day" would have trumped "One man's meat is another man's poison" every time.

However, after a taste of Dickens, Emerson, Hardy and the like, I, too, wanted dessert before dinner. The books were rough, heavy and drab, and the words very close together. My mind reached out to the flashy covers on the table by the door, but my grandmotherís stubborn Scandinavian streak was already rooted in my soul. Instead of giving up my reading plan I veered toward the nonfiction shelves . . . and bumped straight away into Dewey and his Decimal System. (This is not the name of a group.)

Like most attempts at order, Dewey's system has a beginning, a middle and an end: on the chart on the library wall, .000 referred to Generalities, whatever that meant; .500 was Natural Science and Mathematics; .900 meant Geography and History. Everything else there was to know must have been sandwiched in between.

If Dewey had taken a clue from fiction writers ó begin with a hook big enough to snare the most jaded reader ó I might have conquered his system. .000 for Sex, Scandal, Chocolate and Dolls? I would have been glued. As it was, plodding through the stacks was as boring as thumbing through old grocery lists. It didnít take long for me to figure out not only would I never have time to read every book in the library, I didnít want to try.

As the years passed I started thinking. (Philosophy 101: Reading without thinking is like chewing without swallowing.) It hadn't been the number of books that overwhelmed me as much as the inadequacy of my plan. I wanted to get smart fast so I could show off like the grown-ups did. Give more orders. Ask fewer questions. Listen less. Hurry more. The pressure to catch up with the times became so great folks started careening into the fast lane like bats out of you know where. In their spare time they would walk the walk and talk the talk. Talk the talk? Did you know the English language adds around 20,000 new words every year? Impossible.

I sidled over to the shoulder of the information highway and turned off the gas. (A serendipitous decision, considering that lurking in cyberspace, eager for me to flip the final page of the final book, was the world wide web: a tsunami waiting to crash.)

I needed a new plan ASAP as we speed readers say.

Philosophy 101 showed me the way. KISS with a caveat. LOL. Keep It Simple, Stupid. (Since Stupid is not in my vocabulary I substitute Sam.) Keep It Simple, Sam. As simple as picking chocolates out of a box. One at a time works well. Don't gorge yourself is prudent. Sharing is good. So is taking a chance. (I found hazelnut cream.)

I google along the shoulder of the information highway quite often, these days. No sense of direction. Just my own little plan. "Keep it simple, Sam." What's is "it"? Anything you want it to be.

**

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