"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Three Cheers for the Library!

Know what day it is? It's the day I start bugging everyone about the library event this Saturday. Yes, this Saturday, August 15th, I will be part of the Summer Reading Celebration at the Placentia Library, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Of course, I will be there with plenty of copies of Freezer Burn to sell, but mostly I'll be there to support my local library.

According to the flyer, there will be fun! There will be games! There will be pony rides!

No, not like this. Pony rides that the kids will enjoy.

See? Kids LOVE pony rides!

I love libraries! That rich smell of paper and glue and, I don't know, book dust, the je ne sais quoi quality of eau de bibliotheque. And the extra special sounds of quiet. The soft padding of feet, the swish of books being pulled from shelves, opened, put back. Whispers, no cell phones. Peace. Ahhh.

I remember my first library trip. Actually, it was a two-step trip. I was in 1st grade and had just learned to print my name (I knew how to write my signature, but the teacher insisted I put on the brakes and learn to print first). My dad took me to the library to get a library card. I don't know if my dad wanted to take me, but my mom didn't drive, so he was stuck with the task. This is what the Decatur Public Library looked like in 1960:

Except it was called the Carnegie Library. I still remember climbing all the steps and walking through the columns and thinking it was the most gi-normous building I'd ever seen.

The room had floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with books, and there were more rooms on more floors; the possibilities of the worlds I was going to see made me want to dance with joy. I walked up to the desk and the lady gave me a card to print my name, and I was nearly vibrating across the floor. And then the worst thing happened - I printed my name too big for the card.

Now that I think about it, it didn't seem like that big of a deal. All the lady had to do was give me another card and let me try it again. But she didn't. She told me to go home and practice until I could fit my name onto the card and come back.


I did as she asked and talked my dad into taking me back that afternoon. It took all my concentration, but I printed small and made it all fit and went home with a library card and several books. I wish I could remember how many, or the names. I just remember the victorious feeling of having a library card of my very own.

Later, I discovered the joys of the Bookmobile. It was a condensed version of the library, and had completely different books every week. Yummmmmmy.

Today's Decatur Public Library looks like this:

Call me nostalgic, but I prefer the old one. It was torn down, in the 70's I think, to build a metal-and-glass branch of the Soy Capital Bank and a parking lot. Yeah, that's better.

So, tell me a library memoir - what do you remember about your library experiences?

And - if you're anywhere near Placentia, California on Saturday, come celebrate a library with me!


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Wish I were close enough to see you there!

I have so many library memories...my dad used to take me there several days a week when I was growing up. I remember the corner book nook of picture books, then graduating to the Nancy Drews on the wall (feeling proud of myself!) I loved the summer reading program where we kept track of all the books we'd read and got stickers.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I was a real nerd - I used to love looking up books in the card catalog and then seeing how fast I could locate them on the shelf! Saturday sounds like fun - good luck! If Florida wasn't so far from California, I'd drop by.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, gotta agree with you 'bout the old libraries...so glad that the library here has been 'round forever....additions, yes, but in keepin' with the original buildin'

Pam Ripling said...

Great memories!

One of my library memories is a sad one. The 1994 "Northridge" earthquake destroyed so much of our Valencia Library--pretty much destructing the whole periodical section and thousands of books, soaked with water. Tens of volunteers turned out to help with the clean up and they had special machines to dry & dehumidify the books to prevent mold... awful days, those. But with lots of community love & support, the library recovered and is still a favorite of mine today.


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