As a child, the most wonderful place to visit was not Disney World, but our public library.
We were lucky to live minutes away from our large branch library. It was a modern marvel with a space age entrance, two levels, an art gallery, a small movie theatre, and most exciting for me- a spacious children’s section.
I have vivid memories of our family gathering up our books to return, piling into the station wagon, and heading out for an hour of pure joy. In the good old days, my parents were able to get us settled into the children’s library without worrying about the boogeyman snatching us from the aisles. Who would mess with us when the children’s librarian kept such a close eye as we handled her books? But we never mistreated a book. We turned pages carefully with clean hands and re-shelved each discard.
I would enter the room eagerly, shedding my coat to drop on the nearest chair and head towards the fiction aisles, looking carefully for the next Beverly Cleary, or Maud Hart Lovelace selection. I was allowed three books per week. Would I choose an old favorite, or search for something new? A Nancy Drew mystery, or Encyclopedia Brown?
Soon after I first learned to read, my father took me to the library one Saturday morning, just the two of us. I was going to get my first library card, and I was very excited. I remember standing at the desk, like Ramona Quimby, carefully writing my name on the application. Fortunately, I did not sign my name with “^^^^iii^^^” like Ramona, but printed my name with great concentration until all 14 letters were on the line.
I chose two books that day, I cannot remember the title of either one, but remember one about a cowboy, and the other an elephant. I read each one to my father, and my mother, and then to my baby sister. If no one wanted to listen to me read the books aloud, I would read to my baby doll propped in her bed.
Many years later, I took my son to the library to get his first library card. Just like his mother long ago, he carefully printed out his name, with complete concentration. Watching him, I was glad that I was able to share my love of books, and libraries with my child.
|The “modern” Prince George’s County Library, Hyattsville, Maryland|