I got the idea to write this post from reading this Move, Eat, Create blog post. It inspired me to tell my own story, after being so moved by this one.
When I was a child, the library was not just a place to pick out books. It was my second home.
One of my earliest set of memories involves my mother, twin sister, and I going to the library nearly every weekend. We were each allowed to pick a stack of books; most of the time it was more than we could carry ourselves. We spent what felt like hours picking out those books. I remember the smell of the library, the grand stature of the ancient building, the texture of cracked spines. We would walk past the checkout station and wave to our favorite library employees, Scott and Betty. Scott was a tall, slender man with a big poof of dark curly hair; he was like the fun uncle. Betty was a sweet older woman who gave warm and fleshy hugs; she was our library grandma.
Sometime in the 90s, a brand new library was built. It was fresh, and clean, and felt like a Christmas present every time I walked in. During my early adolescent years, my mother started volunteering at the Friends of the Library bookstore, which meant we got four whole hours every Saturday morning to revel in the adventures of our cohorts: Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, the members of The Babysitters Club, Mandie Shaw, Sandy and Dennys Murry, and more. My mother was parenting on her own at this time, so my sister and I created a weekend ritual with our “library babysitter” out of necessity, but it was rarely an encumbrance.
We grabbed our stack of library books, and met our best friends (another set of twins) C & E bright and early each Saturday. We would return what we had read and pick out new books, then take over a big table in between the child and adult section. The four of us were all precocious readers, and lived by the mantra “Books are our friends!” which was lovingly crammed into our heads from an early age in the Talented and Gifted program taught by one of my favorite teachers of all time, Mrs. Swingle. We were big proponents of the “Read In,” a program that my elementary school introduced, where we would lock ourselves in homeroom all day, get cozy on pillows and carpet pads, and read until the bell rang to go home. So, we created our own version at the library. We got comfy and let our imaginations run wild. Of course we allowed for interruptions when Scott would come along and greet us merrily, or if there was a cute boy (Or perhaps four!) to snicker towards.
As an adult, I wish I had the time to go to the library regularly as I did when I was a kid. I am astounded by the power it still holds over me when I make it through the doors. I am blessed to have lived in cities where reading is truly a fundamental of everyday life. Portland’s (Oregon) library is known for its huge circulation system. The main library here is not only a wonderful place for the keen reader to obtain more reading material, it’s physically a beautiful edifice all on its own.
I truly feel lucky to have been embraced by books, and I can only hope that as more and more readers find enjoyment in electronic reading aids, the majority will realize that nothing replaces the rush to the senses that books made of paper and glue can bring to a reader.