Monday, February 13, 2012

I Used to Love the Library

I'm not a library person and I clearly remember the day that I went from being a library person to a non-library person.

Since Dad was a pastor, we always lived in small towns. In the 60s, it didn't seem all that simple to travel to the larger cities to find a good bookstore, so we went to the library. I began reading books early, Mom was such a reader that if she didn't have me doing something like that, she couldn't sit on the couch and read her books.  So, she taught me early.

By the time I was in fifth grade, I didn't go straight home from school, I went to the local library, which was only a couple of blocks away and right across the street from the church.  There were only 900 people in that community, so Mom never worried about me.

The librarian was a much older lady and though I can't remember her name right now, we loved each other.  She taught me how to categorize books and finally, since I was there every single day, how to put books away in their correct place and manage the card library.  I took my little legs up and down the ladders, putting books away every day after school, while she greeted the patrons. Every night I would take another pile of books home and read until I couldn't keep my eyes open.  Those were the days I learned how to hide my lamp under a bedspread so Mom and Dad would think I was sleeping. Erle Stanley Gardner's 'Perry Mason' series was pure joy for me.

We moved to a new community between my sixth and seventh grade year.  The very first thing Mom did was to walk with me to the library - about three or four blocks away. It was so much bigger, I was overwhelmed.  There was a cool kids section, with a story time happening and shelves filled with books.  My eyes nearly exploded out of my head.  Mom tried to tell the librarian how important the library had been to me and asked if I could get my own library card.  No, she said, there was only a family library card.  Mom again told the woman that I had spent as many waking hours as possible in our former library and asked if she couldn't show me around, wanting nothing more than for this woman to open up a little bit to me.  Nothing.  The woman shoved some paperwork at Mom and turned back to a few friends to begin chatting.

I remember being absolutely stunned.  I could see the look of pain on Mom's face and I recognized that this would never be a friendly home for me.  We wandered around a little bit so that we could get familiar with the layout and Mom never said a word to me. We found where all of my favorite book series were located, so that I could keep reading. When we had asked for a few of the locations, the librarian actually looked disdainful that I was reading those books. Throughout that summer, Mom did everything to help me find my way up there.   But, no one else cared whether I was there or not, they weren't interested in the books I was reading, and after a few months I was in school and began using the school library a little more and then Mom and I went looking for used book stores to keep me in books.

Since that day, I've preferred building my own library to trusting someone else to help me find books to read.  Books in any form are pure joy.  I have found worlds and people that I never would have discovered without words on the printed page. I find comfort in books, whether they are hardbound, softcover or ebooks. I love illustrations and photographs, but I don't mind a page full of words that will encourage my mind to create its own images.

And in case you thought I wouldn't put a picture of my cat in this post, you were wrong. TB is guarding my books!

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