This I Believe

Wendy-Marie - Farmington, Connecticut
Entered on September 23, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50

One of my most prized possessions tucked away in my wallet. If this piece of plastic with my signature fading away from overuse ever got misplaced, I would be devastated and rush to replace it. And contrary to what my extended family thinks, it’s not my debit card.

Like many people, my debit card gets plenty of use. But my debit card does not bring me even a tenth of the pleasure my library card does. My name is Gwen M. My addiction is the library and my enabler is the blessed piece of plastic issued to me by the Farmington Public Library back in 2004.

Don’t believe me? Let me tell you a little story.

About four years ago I moved into an apartment with my now husband. We had been in the new apartment less than a month when one Saturday a very special envelope arrived. Now understand something vital was missing from me during those few weeks between the great move and the snowy Saturday afternoon. I had to turn in my hometown library card which I had had for almost 20 years. The library card that had seen me through grade school to post college. Why you ask? My hometown and the new town were in two separate library member networks.

That Saturday afternoon, I had just come back from shopping. Grocery bags littered the kitchen. And the library’s main branch which was just down the road closed for the weekend in forty five minutes. Guess who came home with a bulging bag of books forty three minutes later?

I don’t come from a literary family. My extended family has tagged me as “the bookworm” and “always has her nose in a book”. My parents read to me but books were not the cornerstone of their existence. By the age of four, I had snatched away the books from my relieved parents hands and was plowing through the adventures of Laura Ingalls and Nancy Drew. From my beloved books I learned about something wonderful called a library where you had a magic card. This amazing magic card let you take home books. But until I was seven, the magic card could not be mine. I made do with the school library.

Once I was seven the magic card was mine. My library card was the key, the invitation, the password to different realms. I lived for the once a week trip to the sleek temple of glass and books that was our local branch of the Grand Rapids Michigan public library. When my family moved to New England, the most important thing to me once I had unpacked all my books was to get a new library card. Making friends with the little girls down the road could wait. But my library card could not.

Ten years later, my first day at college found me walking through the doors of the campus library as soon as my textbooks were stashed away in my dorm room. For four years the library was my true home on campus, my room-mates and friends knew if I was not in classes, I was mostly likely roaming the stacks.

Now as an adult, I can debate the pro and cons of the local libraries right down to services, overdue fines and hidden wonders as easily as my family swaps sport statistics. Libraries are my ballparks, my football stadiums. The fragrance of cigarette smoke mixed with yellowing paper wafting from a book plucked from the mystery section of my hometown library. The part historical society, part museum of the CH Booth Library nestled on a quaint street, a treasure I stumbled across once I had my drivers license. The pocket sized library branch tucked into a middle school minutes from work, close enough to visit on my lunch break. The world of tomorrow, I’m in Star Trek feeling of using the touch screen self check out of the Avon library.

You see, there is a certain thrill I get when I drive by a green library sign with the figure of a reader with a book. Do I pull in? Of course I give into temptation.

I enter the library and take a deep breath as I head to the stacks. What wonders will I find hidden on the shelves and squirrel away in my book bag this trip? Something I’ve seen at the new release table at the bookstore and caressed with longing and sadness, knowing no paycheck is a match for my book lust? A book printed during World War II, the front page stating the book is in line with the war time printing regulations? An audio book to fill in the hours during my daily commute to work? The librarian gives me warm smile, one of booklover meeting booklover as my finds are checked out. As I leave, the happy glow of going out the door with old friends and new treasures.

And thing that makes it all possible? A small worn and dirty piece of cream colored plastic.