“Can I take these books home to read?”

I just returned home from a hot two-hour bus trip to Beijing Capital Library, where I handed back an English language history book 36 days overdue and paid 7.2 yuan in overdue fine. This amount equals 72% of the library’s card annual fee.

Every time I visit the library, I feel so good about being served by the government-funded institution because it makes me feel like a Chinese citizen being taken care of by the State. Wrong. The library is in fact financed by the city of Beijing rather than the State.

There is another library to the west a little closer from my department, the much larger National Library of China. This one is supported by the State. I once seriously considered starting to borrow books from NLC, but later was very disappointed to find that borrowing certain books there and taking them home to read required a card-holding borrower to have at least a postgraduate degree. They include imported foreign-language books.

Unfortunately, I’m not equipped with one of those required papers and the English books there in great quantities were the reason why I’d thought about changing over to NLC. I’d hoped I could take my favorites home to read!

When recalling my complaint about the discriminatory national library, my wife smirked over the phone, telling me that “You can wait for me to bring home my papers.” She now studies medicine at a postgraduate school of Guiyang Medicine College and will graduate about this time next year.

The top librarian at NLC seems to think people without at least a postgraduate degree cannot borrow take-away English NLC books for a meaningful purpose that his or her counterpart at BCL identifies with so much.

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