My first memories of the library include huge slanted tables with picture books atop, a small room for story hours, and rows of encyclopedias for elementary school projects. I remember the feeling of comfort and familiarity I felt upon entering the library of my youth – except that one time when I walked in with my very own quarters clenched in my small hand, sent in by my mother to apologize to the head librarian. I had colored all over Danny the Dinosaur. My mother was masterful in the use of effective consequences and teachable moments. I never colored in another library book and felt a small tinge of guilt every time I highlighted passages in a college textbook.
My love for the library only grew as I aged into adulthood, with a short hiatus during the first few years of college. You see, my university library used computer card catalogues. This idea terrified me. It took a couple years for me to get comfortable with punching keys instead of pulling drawers to search for books.
After graduating and marrying a fellow library lover (that wasn’t meant to sound dirty), we moved to Kentucky and made our first appearance at the Lexington Public Library. It was at this point that my new husband learned of my Library Book Disorder (LBD). His first glimpse into my illness occurred as he rounded the corner from periodicals to fiction and saw only the very tip top of his bride’s head peeking out from behind a pile of books. I learned from my grandmother (apparently LBD is genetic) to check out more than you could possibly read by the due date because “you never know which ones you’ve already read.”
A few years later, I sat in yet another beloved library, this time with a Rosebud upon my lap as the Itsy Bitsy Spider Climbed up the Water Spout and Five Little Monkeys Jumped on a Bed. That building and its rows and rows of books witnessed countless story hours and weekend visits from my family. I remember tearfully stepping out of that library for the last time more than a decade later, alongside my three children, none of whom still fit in my lap.
Just as the library was one of the last places we said goodbye to in Kentucky, it was also the first place we visited in Illinois. When my husband and I were settling upon our suburb, we made it a point to check out the local library. You can tell a lot about what a community values by its library.
I sit in that library now as I write these words. It serves as a source of peace, comfort, and inspiration for me, much as all of the libraries in my life have done. There is an elderly woman down the aisle from where I now sit. She is carrying a plastic Target bag of books, nearly full to breaking. Perhaps she is getting a few extra, concerned that there are some she has already read. I look towards her and smile, knowing that I will always have a safe and nurturing place among the book rows of my local library.
This week is National Library Week. I write this post in honor of all of the libraries that have nurtured and comforted me throughout my life and the librarians and staff who run them. I will forever continue to support them with my overdue fees.
Most especially, this one is for you, Melinda, my very favorite librarian.