I confess I find it hard to fathom when I hear people say they have never visited their local library.
What to do with this piece of information?
You see, locating and joining a library has been for me as important as ensuring our utilities are switched back on when we move.
Especially when our family was young, and we were newly transplanted to Scarborough, ME, it formed the basis of my weekly trip to run errands with the children, and as such provided me with new friends, connections, familiarity and solace.
The ladies at the front desk saw me through my last pregnancy and welcomed baby Isaac in his first weeks, watching him grow into a toddler who then came for story-time and beyond.
Maybe for you it’s the local Barista – for me it was these women and this place.
And today, I love me a good natter with Liz Mshar in my local Waxhaw branch, as we compare notes on a recent Netflix show, our week, a good read, vacation plans even and I always hope she’s working when I go. You rarely find that anymore. Or maybe I just talk a lot to people.
That’s a distinct possibility, but you get my point.
This love of the library goes back even further for me;
Being taken as a toddler with my Mom, the best day for me would be a visit to the library which albeit small was well stocked, then followed by a visit to the sweet shop next door for my treat filled paper bag.
To the day when I was old enough to have my very own library card (which was a right of passage in my mind), through to the day I could upgrade to a plastic bound one which heralded the fact you had advanced to the section for older readers.
I would agonize about which titles to take home that week and those I could afford to leave behind, in the hopes they would still be there when I returned. I always disliked the rule of only so many books at a time because I always wanted for more.
And yes, towering behind the desk was the quintessential draconian librarian, complete with half- moon eye glasses, string of beads and cardigan, seemingly to my mind only there to breathe fire and cast a stern stare, lest you be disregarding the ‘NO TALKING’ rule. She commanded both reverence and fear in equal measure. In actuality she was probably really sweet, just doing her job. But I was small, she was behind a huge desk and the image stuck and grew in proportion in my mind.
Despite this distraction, I became engrossed in another world in among those shelves, scouring them for something new but also the old favorites.
Although I will admit to also spying on the old people who came in to read the newspapers. So yes I people watched a majority of the time too. As I peered through the gaps in the books, I couldn’t be told that it was rude to stare. So stare I did.
But these experiences grew a sense of the familiar in me whilst nurturing a love for books which you just can't put a price on.
Back to present day, (and perhaps this will seem a little eccentric to you), but I still feel like that child in a sweet shop when I view my overstuffed bag. They can be new reads, old favorites, audio books, cook books, anything really which has me desperate to return home and curl up with tea in hand to hunker down and devour the latest literary morsel.
If a requested book is there, with brand new jacket, untouched pages, and I am the first to take it out on loan, well then the real glint in my eye sparkles. My “Get out of my way, inner mantra kicks into gear. I am not proud of this but I will admit it happens and happens regularly.
Gollum has nothing on me with his Precious when it comes to this ugly snippet of fact.
But all this nostalgia actually brings to me to an important point.
We need to support our libraries because they are amazing places.
No longer are they seen as the stuffy, quiet outdated portholes, but are vibrant, educational
places to be, full of interesting and engaging classes, book clubs, movies and even yoga happens there.
For kids especially, to retain the art of imagining and to be lost for a moment in where a story takes them can only be a good thing.
I notice some modernization has crept it and personally I don’t so much go for the streamlined look and do it yourself check out system. Give me a circulation desk any day of the week with real friendly faces behind it.
But I recognize it isn’t all about me and whatever helps keep the library thriving and current I can get behind.
I am a staunch supporter of this dangerously teeter tottering institution so let’s not allow them to be considered outdated, un- desired, and unsupported. It’s a travesty to suggest they aren’t a needed resource in a town or city.
Go seek out your library and see what you discover amidst those shelves.
I promise you won’t find a draconian figure lurking among them.
The library I fondly remember.
Credit – mtiedemann.