Some of my most romanticized childhood memories take place in the library. Child-height wooden shelves, overflowing with old favorites and new discoveries. Child-sized tables and chairs and warm, helpful child-friendly librarians. I don’t think my reading capacity was any more voracious than other children in a pre-cable television, text messaging, googling world. In fact I would go so far as to say that it wasn’t the reading per se, which drew me to libraries. I suspect it was the tranquility and order. But we’ll save that particular chapter of self-analysis for another day.
The school libraries were slightly less charming than our town’s public library, but filled with entertaining delight. In my elementary school I discovered a tape of War of the Worlds and shrunk in bug-eyed terror in my carrel (knowing full well it was all fake!) I also discovered Arizona, (or was it Colorado?) magazine, filled with luscious photography of pink and orange canyons. In my junior high school library I mostly discovered a safe haven from the social warfare of the hallways.
Our public library was a world unto itself. The children’s room had a real honest to g-d working fireplace. The shelves were filled with yet undiscovered Helen Keller biographies (don’t ask) and Judy Blumes. It being a regular after-school hangout, I would run into friends I had not seen for years (we had two junior high schools and it was easy to lose track of friends.) Throughout the year, the adult periodicals room would be turned into a movie theatre. I watched every Marx Brothers movie one year.
As an adult I seem to be in fruitless pursuit of those golden library experiences. I still appreciate a good children’s room, but find the plethora of paperbacks and franchise series just a tad disheartening. Where are the Betsy-Tacy books, the Nancy Drews? Sigh. I still frequent the film festivals and gird myself for the unpredictable onslaughts from the dwelling optional. In truth, I should just cherish those memories of new discovery and calm predictable beauty which the libraries provided and recognize those very gifts in new adventures.