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.
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.