By Melissa Mc
How can I possible describe the feeling I get when I’m standing in a room full of books? For me it’s comparable to a pair of warm wool socks, the security of an heirloom family quilt, or the fulfillment of a Thanksgiving dinner. Peace envelops me when I enter a library or book store. Bookshelves provide the perfect shelter from the static of my life. The spines of thousands of books become friends I haven’t met, waiting for me to invite them home, to discover their true identity. In a perfect world, I would wander through every row of fiction, launch into the 100s of Dewey’s wonderful decimal system and finish with biographies, only to begin again to make sure I didn’t miss anything.
As a child, going to the library meant grabbing my favorite book bag, making sure I had my library card and waiting for Mother to tell me she was ready. I can still remember the small round tables and matching child-size chairs that were waiting for me in the children’s reading area. I would look for the most colorful book covers, grab as many as I could and settle in for the day. Dread would certainly come when I could see Mother return from her section with the look of “time to go” on her face. I stalled and delayed with the best of them – I’m almost certain I “pitched a fit” or two. But Mother assured me that we would return soon enough.
Upon entering my undergraduate university, the passion of library participation soon evaporated. Going to the library became a necessity not a joy. The stately, dark paneled, 100 year old reading room, which looked as close to Ivy League as I ever was going to see, became a tomb and a place I loathed. Studying was miserable and the library was an unfortunate casualty. I abandoned it for the dullness of my sorority study hall.
After years of avoiding any and all libraries, the birth of my children has brought me full circle to where my devotion of libraries began. After the birth of my second child, I suffered through a bout of post-partum depression. My own self-prescribed therapy was library therapy – or “librarapy.” After holding a screaming newborn for what seemed to be an eternity, I would hand my beloved, but not well liked, infant to his father upon his arrival home from work, and head to the nearest library branch. There I would sit with my endless rows of “friends” until I felt sane enough to return. Many times, the library would close and I would rush to the closest late-night book store. There I would meditate until I knew I could return home (or until I knew my nursing baby needed me). The library saved me during those times – it was my sanctuary.
My children have given me a legitimate reason to indulge myself in library recreation. For they too have inherited my library “gene.” We have our weekly story and craft times at our local branch. My 8 year old has her favorite, “the BIG library,” and her favorite reading spot, “by the picture window with the big fluffy pillows.” My 6 yr old heads directly for the Spider-man adventure comics. My 3 yr old prefers “the LITTLE library” branch and their assortment of dinosaur stuffed animals and castle reading corners. They love all things bibliographic!
I guess you could call me a library geek – how many other people do you know that have their library card bar code number memorized? Too add to my “geekiness” the first thing I do when I enter a library, especially the children’s section, is re-alphabetize any out of place books. I also avoid the use of the library’s web site. Computers have taken the fun out of book hunting. Instead of thumbing through the on site card catalogue, you can now go on-line, look for a title, request it, and it will be waiting for you at the check-out desk. Next thing they will conceive is a drive through window where you can pick up your books without even entering the library. How boring! I love the satisfaction I get when I find the dusty, out of print book, that I can’t get at any book store (my most recent discovery, My 21 Years in the White House, by Alonzo Fields). In my version of the “hunt” the choice of weaponry is a little yellow pencil and a white piece of scrap paper.
Come to think of it, I think it’s been at least a week since our last library adventure, and I’m in need of my weekly “fix” of book hunting, — “hey kids, do you all want to go to the library?”
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