Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ode to the Library

Every so often I rediscover the public library. We have a number of small branch libraries near us. I have four to choose from within a thirty minute drive, since we’re in the middle of two counties. Like many of you, my books of choice are rarely in our libraries-at least not right away. I usually get my Harlequins from our neighborhood Kroger. However, every now and then I get in the habit of reading something new-and that’s where the libraries come in.

Does your town have a good library? The best one I ever lived near was in Mesa, Arizona. Right after I graduated college, I took a one-year contract to teach fifth grade and moved to Mesa, sight unseen. Looking back, that year was certainly a transition one for me. I had just gotten engaged, but my fiancĂ©e was living in Dallas. I didn’t know anyone. In addition, my dad helped me pick out my apartment-which, unfortunately, took exactly half a month’s paycheck. So, I had no friends, no boyfriend, no family, little money, and spent most of my time in the company of twenty-five rough-around-the-edges ten-year-olds.

When I wasn’t grading papers or developing lesson plans, I hung out at that Mesa Library. What a place that was-they had a whole section of romances! Plus, there were cozy spots everywhere to sit and read and look at magazines. It became the highlight of my Saturday morning routine.

I know exactly where my love of the library came from-my mom. When we first moved to Houston, our suburb only had a very small library in a single-wide trailer. My mom took me to the library almost every week. They switched out the books on a pretty regular basis, so entering those stacks was like Christmas-almost all new books every month! My first favorite book was The Little Match Girl. I still remember the drawings of that poor little girl, selling matches in the cold! I think the librarian made sure that book was one of the few that never ventured far from the trailer. I checked it out as often as possible.

When I was in middle school, the trailer was replaced by a beautiful big, stone building! By the time high school came around, it was the perfect place to do all our research and study. Well, pretend to study. There’s nothing quite like sitting across a rectangular table with a boy you like…all while pretending to research honey bees or the Alamo. That library also had the most delicious sets of Harlequins and regencies by Barbara Cartland. I still recall how grown up I felt checking out those regency romances for the first time.

In our libraries in Cincinnati, you can now get Internet access, check out CD’s and even get whole seasons of television shows-all for free! My son, a high school senior, just went to ‘study’ at the library for the first time the other day. I later found out there just ‘happened’ to be five or six of his friends there, too.

Maybe going to the library isn’t a thing of the past, after all.

So, what am I reading now? A whole series of mysteries by Margaret Maron. I picked one up because there were twelve of her books on the shelf-Series Reading Bliss!
What about y’all? Anyone still go to the library? Have a favorite library book? And what about your kids? Have they discovered the wonders of old books, stacks of unread novels, and the giddy feeling of having to whisper just to have a conversation?


Trish Milburn said...

I love the library! Always have. What a magical place full of stories to take you away. I'll probably actually go there today to do early voting and to see what's on the new releases shelf. I also want to start reading Phillipa Gregory's books, so I'll see what they have.

We have a wonderful library in Nashville. I love how my local branch will order anything from any of the other branches so I don't have to drive all over the city picking up books.

Judith Leger said...

I remember when I was little and attended a private academy. We'd walk down the street to the library. It had stone walls on the outside and wood everywhere on the inside. And the smell of books, new, old, musty wonderful books. I've love to read and write since a very early age and I know going to the library lit that fire in me.

Shelley Galloway said...

Trish, I'm with you. Libraries do equal magic!

Good luck finding those Phillipa Gregory books. I hear they're fantastic.


Ellen said...

I live in a town of around 300,000 so its fairly large and we have wonderful libraries here. The largest or main library in downtown making it convenient for those who work downtown. And there are branch libraries throughout the town but the one that is most unique is the library that is attached to the high school where I taught before retiring. The area is divided from the rest of town by a bayou and was once a separate entity. Anyway there was no public library any where close and the school's library had outgrown the space available so a private investor agreed to sponsor the building and stocking of a public library if the school district was allowed to use it as the school's library also. This became a real win-win situation.

Estella said...

I live in a small town, but we have a great library. It is connected to the libraries in some of the bigger towns in the county, so you can get almost any book available in a couple of days.

Sara said...

We have a wonderful library and I tend to spend a lot of time there! Have also served on the library board...and that was fun!

I can remember when I was little - we didn't have a lot of money - but, every week my mom and grandmother walked my sister and I down to the library to check out our books for the week...

Shelley Galloway said...

Judith, I've been smiling all day, thinking about that library smell. You described it just right!


Shelley Galloway said...

Oh, Ellen! That's awesome! Right now I'm trying to imagine how cool it must have been to walk next door to the school's library. And, with a bayou nearby, too!


Shelley Galloway said...

Estella, I need to remember to ask for books from other's so easy to do, but takes planning ahead!


Shelley Galloway said...

Sara, when my kids were little, we always joined the summer reading club. Gosh, I think I did that, too! What do you do on a library board? Do you get to order books?


Lee McKenzie said...

When I was a kid, our neighbor was a children's librarian. In those days the children's department was housed in the basement of an old building. The windows were up near the ceiling, but they still let in lots of sunlight, and the bookshelves and furniture were all made from heavy, dark wood.

I used to go to the library every Saturday, and would always stop by my neighbor's office. She knew I was an avid reader, so she'd often set aside new books that had just come in, and I'd get to be the first one to borrow them. And even though I was just a kid, she was always interested in what I thought about the books she recommended. A very special woman.