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Forget that Potter movie, that was sooo yesterday. I just got back from a quick visit to the downtown library to get the very first look at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the absolutely first, last book in the Harry Potter saga (author J.K. Rowling is hedging her bet on whether she’ll return to Hogwarts for another round in the distant future).

The boxes state very clearly, “Do Not Open Until July 21,” but the library received special permission to break them open early for cataloging and such. What happens to Harry? What happens to Voldemort? What happens to the crowds of people that haven’t picked up a book in 10 years that didn’t have an awkward boy wizard on the cover? Well, I may very well have been able to get the answer to at least two of those questions, but they’re keeping a sharp eye on the books.

“The branch libraries must keep the books in a secure environment,” according to special instructions on the billing slip (unheard of, except for the Potter books and the last volume of Lemony Snicket). “At no time may the books be handled for any reason other than to process the book for shelving and may not be displayed until 7/21.”

Apparently some people can wait for Christmas Day, or Pottermas Day in this case. Julie Thompson, head of the library’s acquisitions department, has read the other six books, but she says she has no desire to sneak a peek — and she was very nice, so we’ll say we believe her. She said she’s already ordered her own copy that she’ll get it on the 21st, the same as everybody else, and I guess we can see the excitement in waiting.

But for those who can’t wait, don’t even think about a Mission: Impossible type trip to the library. They’ll be locking the books up this afternoon to “get rid of the temptation for staff members,” Thompson said.

While a Saturday release may be good for booksellers, it’s awkward for library staff, who will be working odd hours to make sure that the books will be available Saturday morning for those folks who have placed them on hold. That’s right. The library will have 160 copies and already has more than 200 holds, so if you’re looking to get your Potter book at your local branch, good luck. But Thompson did note that the hold list is down from past Potter books.

“I think most people want to buy this one,” she said.

Or maybe they’re waiting for the movie.

UPDATE: There may be spoilers in the comments to this post. Or they may just be the ramblings of the village idiot. Either way, it’s best to be cautious unless you don’t care either way.