Our theme for the month of October is “This Day in History.”
I don’t remember 9/11.
This is my favorite way to make my coworkers feel old, along with closely following any mention of a date more than ten years ago with “You wanna know what I was doing in [year mentioned]?” They never do.
Maybe my kindergarten teacher was especially good at keeping us from the abject horror of the day’s minute-to-minute and I think my parents were intentional about not talking about it in front of my five-year-old self. It’s not that I don’t remember kindergarten—you know those sharp-edged details that stay with you as the mundane fades away: “x is for x-ray fish” on the laminated zoological alphabet cards or when you found the egg (purple, this is important) with the tiny rubber spear that pierced Jesus’s side in the Holy Week-themed resurrection egg hunt.
It’s not that I don’t remember 2001. Because I have very clear memories—if fragmented, like someone’s taken scissors to the photo album—of October 26 of that year. It’s the day that I got my first library card.
My mother drove me to the library, the little one on the north side of town, in the maroon Town & Country that defined my grade school existence. If you were a kid who wanted a card at our library in 2001, all you needed was a vaguely proactive legal guardian and the ability to write your name unassisted. “Annaka” we had covered in school (it’s only three letters, when it comes down to it), but “Koster” was harder. I spent the trip repeating it to myself—K-O-S-T-E-R (all different!)—asking after each repetition if I’d gotten it right.
The cards back then were brittle and white. When the librarian asked if I could spell my name, I said I could, and proved it in large, rounded letters. A-N-N-A-K-A K-O-S-T-E-R. Your passport to the world.
It’s not the kind of thing you remember—the date you got your first library card. It’s not the kind of thing that I remembered, except that now I work as a librarian in the same system and those kinds of things stick around in the metadata.
Other things that do too: That I might have had that dog-chewed volume of Fullmetal Alchemist when the person who damaged it paid for it. The day I switched my allegiance from the small branch library to the main one downtown. And when, six months after I turned sixteen, I received my adult card number.
And the things that don’t: The guilty terror of being billed for that dog-chewed volume of Fullmetal Alchemist that I checked out like that, I swear, I know you don’t have any reason to believe me but I don’t even have a dog, ask the teen librarian, I’m a volunteer, she’ll vouch for me. The fact that I changed home libraries because the branch and the main library were equidistant on my bike and main library just had more stuff, which caused my parents to break their “no cell phone until you’re sixteen” rule so that I could ride my bike there with their piece of mind intact (or as intact as it ever is, when you’re a parent) at fourteen. That the card I received in October of 2012 is still on my keychain and so busted that you can no longer read the number nor scan the barcode, or that it’s much easier to memorize your card number once you spend all day typing them into a CMS and realize that they all start with the same seven numbers.
Those are the things that the metadata leaves out.
It leaves out the hours my middle school best friend and I sat huddled on the teen computers at the north branch, playing cereal-themed online games put out by General Mills. It leaves out the time that I checked out thirty-two volumes of Bleach and had to let a librarian go through the whole stack of weird Japanese comics individually to find the one that set off the gate (it was the one with the most embarrassing cover). It leaves out the time my sister and I made fifteen packets of ramen in the staff kitchen for the ramen bar at “ToshoCon 2012,” the world’s smallest anime convention.
And it leaves out the three months of unemployed limbo between when I got my first ever grown-up job (March 2020) and when I actually started it (June 2020). It leaves out the time I sat next to a homeless man while waiting for the first responders to arrive because his friend had threatened to kill himself that day and he’d done a lot of drinking about it and he wasn’t quite in bad enough shape yet to not know how bad it was. It leaves out the stupidly silly semantic arguments over what’s a dragon and what’s a wyvern at the sci-fi book club, and the dog curled around my feet at the brewery while it happens.
It leaves out the day when, not long after I started, my library director slid something across my desk with a “look what I found while digging through old pictures for the twenty-fifth anniversary.” A photo of three people, fuzzy with early 00s technology and bright with the fashion sensibilities of the late 90s. They’re planting something spindly next to the bird bath in the north branch’s new community garden, which is so old that it no longer exists. One’s my sister. One’s my mom. And one’s me, of course.
The photo’s from spring 2002, close enough to poetry to count.