An Ode to the Library

We are getting ready to head to a new (to us) library branch for story time this morning, so libraries are on my mind. If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t love story time. I do want my children to know and love the library, however, so off we go! I originally started this post by writing a poem about libraries. It was pretty awful. Instead, I’d like to share 6 library memories that have gotten me to the point where I visit libraries on vacation and strike up conversations with librarians about classification systems for fun. (It’s a glamorous life.)

My first clear memory of visiting a library was with my older sister. She is quite a bit older than I am, and like little sisters everywhere, I will like something if she gives it her stamp of approval. I still remember taking trips to the Mesa Public Library with her. Even now, when I see its delightfully weird exterior, I can see in my mind’s eye the way the library was laid out 20 years ago. It was there that I got my first library card (She even paid the out-of-county fee for me. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.), read my first copy of The Hero and the Crown, and first felt impossibly small next to rows and rows and rows of books.

One summer when my brother and I could be trusted not to rip books (but hadn’t started reading them in the bathtub yet), my mom helped us request every single Wizard of Oz sequel through interlibrary loan. In addition to reading great stories, we learned some geography in the process. Each book came from a different library around the country. I loved looking at the library stamps and check out cards and imagining what each book had seen from its position on the shelf.

Another summer almost a decade later, I fulfilled a life’s dream by (briefly) volunteering at the library. I remember feeling disappointed that never once did I get to make a recommendation to a kid wandering around looking for something to read. Thanks to some friends and co-volunteers, I participated in the local library’s summer theater program that summer. That was my first experience with the library as a community center for the arts as opposed to just a place to get books.

In college, I lived in the library. Long before changing my major, I did calculus homework on the 5th floor because I loved the old books there best. I hid in the carrels, wandered the aisles just to look at the spines of books, and worked with friends in the study rooms. The only place I didn’t spend any time was the infamous periodicals section. I heard that people went there to get a date, which was basically the opposite of everything I wanted from a trip to the library.

When I was pregnant with our first child, I lived in the library’s pregnancy and childbirth section. Just about everything I learned before bringing home that first squirmy baby (including his name) is thanks to the City of Tempe library. I can still remember the naming book I liked best and where it was shelved in 2008. When I started to get serious about bread making a few years later, I turned to the library. I can make pretty decent baguettes and pizza dough thanks to the City of Tuscaloosa library. Every time we get to a topic I’m not certain about in the process of homeschooling, we head to the library. (And every time we do, I remember how much I love Melvil Dewey.)

A few weeks ago, I made a quick run to the tiny library branch near our house. I generally prefer the larger main branch, but this was a dash-in-and-grab-a-book-on-hold affair. My preschooler was with me on this occasion, so we lingered a bit longer while she picked a few books of her own. The librarian mentioned they had hidden some pictures around the library, and she could earn a prize if she found three of them. The pictures were found and the prize consumed (after a lengthy discussion about the difference between lollipops and suckers), and now she is a library fan for life. Every time I’ve announced that we’re going to the library since, she asks, “Are we going to MY library?” My bookworm heart can barely handle how happy that makes me, even if it is just because she loved the candy.

If you’re looking for more great things about libraries, check out Kate diCamillo’s fantastic Top 10 Reasons to Participate in Your Library’s Summer Reading Program. Are you library lovers at your place?



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