Ode to the public library

After yesterday’s post lamenting the loss of old school blogging, I now offer a post that I may have previously hesitated to publish because, well, its subject seems a little silly but, then again, I’m free, right? So in the interest of blog fun I give you my ode to the library which I’ve chosen to subtitle…

Wherein I reveal that I really am the biggest nerd ever

Some of my happiest memories of growing up–and I have many–include our trips to the local library. I can still recall the smell, the hushed quiet, the wide staircase, the eager anticipation that greeted me upon entering the glass doors. I can see Buffy the bookworm performing at the summer reading program and I can feel the weight of my library card in my hand, my name proudly printed on the front in my stilted first grade script.

With this card I was allowed the privilege of checking out a maximum of six books. Thus, six titles at a time, I made my way through the many adventures of Nancy Drew and Sue Barton, as well as Cherry Ames and Encyclopedia Brown and Penny and Tippy Parrish and all of Beverly Cleary’s protagonists from Ramona to Henry to Ellen Tebbits.

I loved wandering the aisles, perusing the book jackets, flipping through pages. A happy memory, as I said, not an exuberant happy but  a kind of slow, peaceful, luxuriant happy. The words, the stories, the books that awaited my discovery, these and the anticipation thereof were a source of delight to me, bibliophile that I was (am).

As I grew older our library trips grew less frequent. I have no library related memories of high school or even college (other than those late night pre-exam cram sessions during which I would often sequester myself in a corner cubicle of the library until closing time). My slow meander through the library aisles wouldn’t resume until I was a young adult.

Once married, I couldn’t wait to get my new driver’s license.  Correct identification with a new name is cool and all that but I was the more eager to have that correct identification in order to get my library card. I became once again a regular patron, this time of the small branch library near our first apartment. At each subsequent move my first priorities always included obtaining a library card.

As the children came along, one right after the other, I would navigate the stroller among the bookcases, then a stroller and a toddler alongside, then a preschooler and toddler and stroller, then…

A funny story we like to tell on my youngest: when he, my baby, was a toddler, I would have to make a circutious route for our errand running in order to avoid driving past the library unless, of course, we planned on stopping. If he saw the building and we did not pull in he would cry and cry and cry, a library induced tantrum as it were.

We had our habit: upstairs first to the children’s books. Each boy would have a totebag to fill with his chosen books. Once everyone had browsed and chosen to his heart’s content, we would go downstairs. There they would sit, looking at their books on the sofa in the adult fiction section while I browsed and chose to my heart’s content. That image of them, my four boys, my babies, eagerly “reading” their books, patiently waiting on their mother, this is another happy memory among many happy memories.

Well, as these things generally go, the boys grew and we got busy and now we rarely go to the library, and not at all as a family. A couple of my guys are still voracious readers and nearly always have a book on hand, usually from their school’s library. I continue to be a loyal patron, but, for whatever reason, my visits are not nearly as frequent as in years past. Thanks to the wonder of technology, nowadays I can browse and search for books on my laptop and know exactly which titles are ready and available for check out before I even darken the doors. This streamlines the process, saves me time, and helps me choose books I am confident I will enjoy.

But sometimes I still, occasionally, go to the library without a list, with no agenda but to walk the aisles, browse the titles, peruse the book jackets, and flip through pages. All these words, these stories, these books ready and waiting to be discovered–this makes me happy. Still.


Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

15 thoughts on “Ode to the public library”

  1. While I never had a non-library period, this post resonates with me–and I don’t find it silly at all. I was also ecstatic when at last, about six weeks ago, I had my new ID and was able to get a library card in my new city. I’ve only been there twice in the intervening weeks, but browsing the shelves of a new library is a definite pleasure.

  2. Love this! My Mom used to take us to the library as kids every Saturday and we’d check out books till our hearts were content, the anticipation was more than we could stand some weeks! I worked at my College library as part of my financial aid program and still remember wandering through the aisles just browsing all the while re-shelving books! Sadly, like you though we don’t get the library hardly ever if at all…

  3. That is so funny that you had to avoid driving by the library sometimes. Love it!
    I have dear memories of the library growing up and of the bookmobile, too. Our schools did not have their own libraries. I love to hold a book in hand. I don’t know if I’ll ever go over to the electronic reading of books…
    Have a great Memorial Weekend…

  4. Beautiful! I have fond memories of my library as well! I went last week to take out a couple of books that Melissa recommended to me. I hope libraries never go away!

  5. I loved going to the library as a child and I still love it. On line searching is great, but I still like to browse the stacks and see what treasures might be hiding there. Library used book sales are great too.

    In fact, I need to head to my library this afternoon…

  6. Don’t know why you hesitated to post this—Nancy Drew, Sue Barton and Cherry Ames were some of my best childhood friends. 🙂

  7. When I was growing up, our library was housed in a grand old house. I loved to visit, which wasn’t often. Now it’s moved into a new, mostly glass building. I don’t take time to wander as I should. You’ve inspired me to do that, though. I do love our library, but I also love the convenience of the fact that it’s part of a system so I can request books from many different branches & have them delivered to mine.

  8. I’ve moved several times in various places in North America and I am never truly settled until I’ve found the library and gotten my new library card. We go every Saturday…not all of us anymore but definitely the youngest ones and who ever else wants to tag along.

  9. Love this post!! We’re still in that life-phase when we visit the library every week. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I’ll miss it one of these days.

  10. My family always spent a lot of time at our local public library. I even worked there for three years in high school. Fond memories:) Card catalogs are gone and some libraries don’t even shelve books by the Dewey Decimal System(just by subject). What’s this world coming to?!

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