I believe in public libraries.
From the time I can remember anything, I remember public libraries. In my family, Monday nights were library nights, when we all piled into Dad’s car for the ride to the library. Mom, Dad, my two brothers and I – and sometimes my two older sisters as well – returned last week’s books and gathered new ones for the coming week.
The library in the little New England town I grew up in was located in the Town Hall. It was a big old Victorian building with stone and shingles and wooden floors. The town offices were upstairs, where some nights my father volunteered as an assessor or a selectman. On the third floor was the old meeting room, where town meetings were held and where we took dancing lessons.
But on the first floor was the library, with its sturdy reading table and hushed atmosphere, with sections for fiction and non-fiction and children’s books. I loved walking by the shelves, patting the books I’d already read and liked, gleefully picking new books to read. I read as much as I could and even read books I didn’t really understand – no one ever told me “that book’s too old for you.” And as I read I learned and grew and explored.
Now I’m an adult and an attorney and live in a big city with a big library system, but at least once a week, I find myself going to the library. I still walk along the stacks remembering books I’ve read and delighting in a new book by a favorite author. And sometimes I read children’s books – no one ever tells me “that book’s too young for you.” Libraries are the place I still go to learn and grow and explore.
Mostly my visits to the library are quick stops to pick up a book or dvd for the weekend. But sometimes I sit in the library reading because I’ve got cabin fever (how many days in a row can it rain?) and want the quiet company a library provides. And sometimes I visit the library because I remember piling in my father’s car – 2500 miles and a lifetime ago – and I wish I was a child again.
In a world where so much has changed, libraries are my touchstone – a connection to my community, my family and my past, as well as a door to the person I’ll be tomorrow.
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