I believe in the library. It’s a place you can dig for a few minutes or a few hours and almost always walk away with treasure. I love everything about the library; how it looks, how it smells, how it feels to be lost in the stacks.
My belief in this place started early. I learned to read sitting on my father’s lap as he read the evening newspaper. We would pick out words together and soon the world of reading opened before me. Of course my first grade teacher Mrs. McNeill also helped a little. Then one magical day she took us to the school library. To me it looked like Aladdin’s cave, full of treasure just waiting to be touched, opened, and of course taken home.
As I grew older mom took me to our public library. We would ride the city bus from our neighborhood in Lake Shore to the branch library. If the school library was Aladdin’s cave, then this stone building with its columns and tall steps was King Solomon’s mines. The wealth was unimaginable. I could go anywhere and learn anything just by borrowing its contents.
College took me far from home and into two different states. There was a whole new world – the college library. After college and with each subsequent move I have always sought out the local library. It is one of the first places I go in any town or city and am always somehow relieved when that special card that allows me to borrow books is in my hand.
When my children were born it was a delight to introduce them to the library. And as cardboard picture books were replaced by easy readers and then by “real” books their love of the library grew. My daughter now has a master’s degree in library science. Her love of the library drawing her into the world of rare books.
The library has changed since my first trip there long ago. In addition to print materials it has been a repository for VHS videos, books on tape, and record albums which evolved into DVDs, books on CD, and music CDs. A patron can now access the internet from library computers. Even the card catalogs are on computer these days.
But I still believe in the library because its purpose has remained constant. It opens the world to young, old, rich, and poor alike. In the library we are all equal and have equal opportunity to experience worlds apart from our own. And even if I didn’t become the tight rope walker of my childhood dreams I can still become something even more daring on my magic carpet from the library.
Oh, by the way, I didn’t hear about This I Believe essays on the radio but encountered them in the CD recordings of the essays that I found at the library.
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