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For the Love of Libraries

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Growing up in a small rural community, there was no local library. The closest would have been in the schools we attended 10 miles away. The county library was in the county seat 19 miles away. It is still the same today. I never set foot in the county library until I was an adult.

We did have the services of the Bookmobile which I have written about before. This mini library on wheels would park at a central location and stayed long enough to give everyone who was interested time to peruse and check out a book. I can close my eyes imagine myself as a child climbing up the steps into this small mobile world of books.

Jennie posted a blog a few days ago which reminded me of lying on the loveseat in my grandmother’s dining room with the sun streaming in the windows while I read Charlotte’s Web cover to cover. I can almost feel the warmth of the sun in that extremely tactile memory.

Libraries were my solace throughout my life. When I was in the Air Force in tech school, I would often go to the library on base, check out Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits album, put on clunky headphones and simply listen to the music. (This memory came up for me while reading Melanie’s SLS post.) It was a great escape from the pressures of the day. There was not much time for books in those days and that may have resulted in me falling out of the habit of reading.

When I lived in Alaska, I fell in love with the Anchorage Public Library. It was modern and ahead of its time as far as its offerings. The catalog of books was amazing. They had soundproof ‘practice rooms’ with pianos in them for patrons to use. They also had big soft upholstered chairs with surround sound speakers built into them – they were wonderful for listening to classical music.

We were living in Florida when hurricane Charlie hit. We lost power for about 8 days which meant cold showers and no air conditioning among the other inconveniences. When I had my fill of the Florida heat, I would spend hours at our local library. They did not lose power. I was able to stay connected with family and friends, read some books, all while enjoying a break from the heat. We would have three back-to-back hurricanes that year.

After moving to the west coast of Florida I became very interested in genealogy. The Hillsborough County library had a large genealogy department that covered most of the southeast US. I spent a great deal of time there researching my family history. Our local library branch was much smaller in comparison but frequented by local families with children.

One day while waiting in line, a young mother was in front of me with two wide-eyed children with several books in their arms. The mother’s face dropped when she was told she had a past due fine and could not check out more books until the fine was paid. I knew from the look on her face she did not have the two dollars. I reached in my pocket and pulled out two dollars and slid it across the counter. She was so thankful and promised to pay it forward when she could.

Since we moved back here, I have visited many libraries in this geographic area searching family roots. They are a treasure trove of information. Every little bit of information helps complete the puzzle.

One of my favorite library interactions took a while, though. My daughter wrote a poem about her brother when he was born. It was published in a book entitled Pencils Full of Stars which was published annually by the Anchorage school district. I have been looking for a copy of the poem for years. I did not remember what year she wrote it, but the district school librarian searched for months and finally found it in an archive. This is what librarians do.

My Earliest Memory by Melissa

It’s my dream to go to the Library of Congress and to visit some of the amazing libraries throughout the world – maybe research my European roots. I am not sure I will make it, but it is my dream. Did libraries play an important part in your life? Have you visited amazing libraries? Did you have a bookmobile? I would love to hear your stories.

 

32 thoughts on “For the Love of Libraries”

  1. What a beautiful post!! Also, thanks for the nod and I’m glad I could revive a good memory for you! 🙂 Song Lyric Sunday is amazing and Jim does a great job with it.

    Did libraries play an important part in your life? Yes. I’m a ‘bookworm” (the label given to me by my family when I was young) and so going to the library was an especial treat! My mother loved words and books, and we’d visit our local library often.
    When I was taken into foster care, I don’t think we ever visited the library, not once. I also don’t recall reading many books during that time period, but could have blanked it out. That family didn’t encourage a lot of reading, it was time wasted that could be spent doing chores in their opinion.

    Have you visited amazing libraries? Yes I have, because I think all libraries are amazing. Just walking in the front doors and smelling the unique smell that wafts about is amazing to me.

    Did you have a bookmobile? We did. I lived in a lot of different places after we were returned to my biologic parents, and I know that book mobiles were the thing in the more rural settings.

    Great post Maggie and what lovely memories! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, Melanie. Libraries are a lifeline for so many people and yet others seldom set foot in one. Since the pandemic I have not been inside a library but would love to go back. I often pay an annual fee to get a library card and electronic access to a library outside my area. I view many of my favorite periodicals on my iPad these days. Even magazines are harder to come by in smaller towns. Especially magazines about certain types of art.

      It was such a pleasure to read your response and hear how libraries impacted your life.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I missed visiting my local library during the last 18 months. Curbside pickup though provided me with a regular supply of books, it was not the same.
    Finally, I went back to the library last month and it felt like I was meeting my long-lost, dear friend!
    “ I don’t have to look far to find treasures.
    I discover them every time I visit a library ”
    Michael Embry

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Chaya, I love the quote. How true! I have not been physically inside our library sine the pandemic began and that is sad. I will go back soon, though. I do appreciate you taking the time to read my rather long post. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We had a small library at school, and a main one in the local borough where I lived in London. That was a large Victorian Gothic building, packed with books, and always popular. I used to get three books out a week when I was young. The building still stands, but ceased to be a library a long time ago. It is now a Bhuddist Meditation Centre, which I think is a very appropriate use for it.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Pete, I would love to know what types of books captured young Pete’s attention. I imagine the grandeur of large Victorian buildings. I am glad it has a new life. I assume the library is now housed in a new building. As always, thank you for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In the hallway to the basement in the one-room school there was a library of a couple hundred books. I read them all at least once. When I got to high school that had a library of couple thousand books I thought I died and went to heaven. I think what I miss most since getting around is hard for me is not going to the libraries I use to frequent.
    Nice post, Maggie and I love Melissa’s poem and the persistence of the librarian who finally found iit.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Don, it amazes me how small towns with small schools did so much to establish small libraries and inspire children to read. Our libraries used to deliver books by mail for those who could not get to the library, but I know it is not the same as walking in the doors of such a familiar place. I am glad the librarian found Melissa’s poem. She could not remember all of it and it was so nice to see it in print again. Thanks, as always, for reading, Don.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Growing up I lived within walking distance of our city public library & our large Presbyterian church had a lending library with many classics in it. My parents lived and breathed books so some of my earliest memories are at the library, browsing, then marching home with a pile of books, just like my mom and dad.

    You were kind to pay that mother’s fine. Her kids saw something good happen & they got to keep on reading.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ally, thank you for reading. Libraries are such amazing places. My mother was an avid reader and my father resented the time she spent with her ‘nose stuck in a book’ so I grew up trying to balance how I felt about reading. I think it was my mother’s escape. Libraries, nonetheless, offer so much.

      It made me happy to help that mom and her children out. They were able to leave happy that day. I remember being a young mother of two children. It was not always easy.

      Like

  6. Maggie, I too grew up in a rural area several miles from a library, other than the one at school. My dad owned a tiny general store, and a bookmobile brought books to Dad’s store and made them available to our community. My grandpa always snatched up the Zane Grey westerns. My grandma read Grace Livingston Hill’s novels. I remember reading Jane Eyre and immediately going back to page one and reading it again. Betty Cavanna wrote squeaky clean teenage romance novels, my favorite one being A Time for Tenderness. Once a week Dad drove into West Plains, Missouri, to pick up supplies. I asked him to find and buy for me a book to read. He brought home Cherry Ames–Student Nurse. I now understand what a daunting task it must have been for Dad to find a book his young teen daughter would like, but he scored big with the Cherry Ames book!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My mother was a huge Zane Grey fan AND a Grace Livingston Hill fan. I think she read every book that each of them wrote. Isn’t it funny how growing up without something like a library makes us appreciate books even more. I have heard of Cherry Ames, but never read her books. I was always a Nancy Drew fan myself. (I loved the bookmobile!)

      Like

  7. Three times I was granted access to previously off limits collections. First when I had outgrown the children’s library at 12 and wanted to go into the adult section. I had to take a note from my mother.(Mind you I had already taken myself downtown on a bus to get there.) Later in college my honors work allowed me access to the Widener Library, an amazing collection. I also was able to handle original copies of Dylan Thomas in the Houghton Library after shelving all possessions and taking a pencil and paper from the librarian. Great times for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What wonderful experiences, Elizabeth. There is a well respected bibliophile who has a shop near us. We visited a few times before the pandemic hit. His collection of rare books is breathtaking.

      Liked by 1 person

I appreciate those who read and I enjoy your thoughtful comments.

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