April 02, 2009

Rows and rows of books


When I was a kid, my mother would bring us to the library every Tuesday. We kids would run into the brick building ahead of my mother, and whatever argument we’d gotten into in the car would disappear as soon as we went through the door. You spoke in whispers in the library. In the hushed atmosphere, I’d go over eagerly to the shelves and shelves of books. I can remember having fantasies about getting snowed into the library, with all those books just waiting to be read.

My mother would go off to find books for herself, which gave me time to browse through the kids’ books and make the agonizing choices. An old favorite? Or do I take a chance on a new book? I’d take an armful of books over to the wooden bench and set them on the wooden slanted shelf so I could look through them. We were each allowed to take two books home.

How exciting Tuesday evenings would be. I’d read my own two books first, of course, and then I’d find the books my siblings had taken out, and read them. If it was summer, I’d stay up all night reading. For the rest of the week, I’d keep rereading my books until Tuesday came, and we could go back to the library again.

As an adult, I tend to buy books rather than use the local library. That explains why our house and both my offices are so cluttered with books. But still, I love the library. Just walking into the little library in Traintrack Village makes me think of Francie Nolan from A Tree Grow in Brooklyn, who was going to read all the books in alphabetical order, and Betsy from the Betsy-Tacy books, who went to the library on Saturdays because she knew she was going to be a writer.

Sometimes I take the little neighbor kids to the library, but I’ve also gone there during my sabbatical to write. I carry in my laptop, smile at the woman behind the desk, and then sneak down the rows of books until I find the chair hidden in the northwest corner of the building. It’s an overstuffed chair, next to the window, where I can sit and write without interruption. The lack of wireless helps immensely. And those rows of books keep me focused.


That's Ponytail, the five-year-old neighbor girl, in the photo.


Jackie said...

I'm the same way-- love being in libraries, but not as much as I love owning books.

kathy a. said...

i know i can get more work done in a library -- and also that there is so much there that i will never otherwise see! it's a little mystery why i don't go there more often.

ponytail looks older and very intent in this photo!

patrick said...

I didn't read a lot as a kid, although a reading merit program we had in school encouraged us to do so, so I made regular trips to our branch library to pick out books that I could devour quickly in order to get my achievement certificates (which I think I still have in a binder my mother kept for me). The books I most often checked out were by C. B. Colby and dealt with guns and aircraft and spying and the like (Combat was one of my favourite television shows at the time, and the war in Vietnam had yet to invade my consciousness).

My other memories of that library involve one of my brother's research attempts in which the copy machine (pre-Xerox) produced reverse-images (white on black) of the books or magazines we copied, and either my (or my younger brother's) bicycle that got stolen from out front.

I see that the city/county moved the branch to a new building/location, much closer to where I lived.

(I hope you don't mind the links... I was curious about whether or not the old branch location had been torn down, so I did a search with Google maps and thought what the heck!)

Rana said...

There is something about the library that facilitates getting work done - it's one of my strategies of last resort when I really need to focus on something and get it done.

When I was a kid libraries were where my mom worked, so they were special but not that amazing. Bookmobiles, on the other hand, were deeply, deeply cool!

sherry said...

In our community children can get their very own library card when they are 5. When I do well child check ups on kids that age I always tell them that it is time for them to go get their library card and to bring it back to show me.

Many children have brought those cards in to their next visit and showed them with immense pride.

Songbird said...

I adored the library. I just didn't want to return the books.

Artist Friend said...

When I was in first grade, we had a book reading contest. Most of the other kids had ten, twelve, fifteen--I had thirty-eight, more than double the closest girl behind me. But I still lost to a kid named Jim Bevis, who read eighty-one. Sigh. There it is, the story of my life in a nutshell.

Casey said...

Mmm, lovely books!

My parents used to take me to the Landa branch library in San Antonio, converted from an old mansion complete with sweeping marble stairs and individual rooms full of books. I thought the library was the absolute coolest place on earth. I loved the upstairs reading room with windows that you could open(!) while you worked or read.

We don't have anything so fancy here in Austin, but my boys love the library just the same.

TC said...

We ran out of both bookshelf space and money at around the same time (funny how that happens...) and so, after a childhood much like yours, I've rediscovered our local library (OK, libraries...there are three within in long-walking distance of my home, one near my office). I still get that same thrill from being surrounded by books...and by people who love books.

Anonymous said...

I loved my childhood library. We moved away and at the grand old age of 29 I moved back to my childhood town. It was wonderful going to the library again - it has hardly changed. Now I get to take my children there. I hope they remember it as fondly as I did.

landismom said...

I'm sooo happy that our Farmer's Market is going to be opening soon, and we'll be able to walk into town on Saturdays to get our produce and our library books. We're much more likely to go to the library in the spring & summer when the weather is nice, than when we have to bundle up and get in the car.

liz said...

Library is one of the world's most wonderful words.

RageyOne said...

I can totally relate to your feelings on the library. It was my favorite place to go as a child. The main library here in Red Stick City is surrounded by soccer fields. Whenever my brother would have soccer practice my mom would drop me off at the library. I loved it! I would get lost in the books, sitting on the floor surrounded. I wouldn't pay attention to the time at all and 9 times out of 10 she would have to walk the entire library to find me. :) Oh the memories!

Anonymous said...

Your post takes me back to all the wonderful hours spent at the library when I was growing up.