Monday, February 2, 2015

In Praise of Libraries

By Pamela

As a kid, I felt pretty envious of my cousins' lifestyle. A real-life city mouse/country mouse saga was being played out with me as the mouse who lived next door to farmers and rode my bike down dangerous asphalt roads without a sidewalk to separate me from oncoming cars. Our trees and flowers grew without much thought or attention, and dogs ran loose and free. My nearest playmates, Connie and Brenda, lived over a half-mile away. But I really never labeled myself 'deprived' until I realized my cousins had library cards and, to me, that was almost akin to royalty status. Well, the library and access to a neighborhood pool.

I did have wonderful school libraries and count those librarians as some of my most treasured teachers. In fact, I stayed in touch with Mr. Wray, my elementary school librarian, up until my 20s--and that was before Facebook! But without access to a library in the summer, I was left to my own wiles and had to read whatever books we had around the house or I could borrow from friends.

Now as a certified city-dweller, I have a library two miles from my home. Not only does it have free Wi-Fi, study cubicles and meeting rooms, one can also borrow books, movies, audio books, children's learning kits and more. Plus they host a Friends of the Library used book sale four times a year and, if you happen to miss one, there's a bookcase of remainders with hard cover books a mere $2 and paperbacks for 75 cents. At my library, a teen writing group meets every month and so does a book club for adults. The local master gardeners put on talks quarterly and, if chess is your go-to stress reliever, the second-Sunday afternoon of each month is devoted to you.

I'll admit, since my daughter and I no longer attend the story time events (remind me to tell you about the one time she waited until I was unbuckling her from her car seat in the parking lot to announce she wasn't wearing any underwear) or puppet shows, I don't take advantage of all my library has to offer me. Like indoor plumbing and my dishwasher, it's a luxury I take for granted. But yesterday, I was in need of a book for one of my book clubs and hated to spend the money on a download if I didn't have to. So, I ventured to the library and there the book was, waiting for me to take it home. In fact, I had a choice--paperback or hard cover.

As I was waiting in line with my book (and three to buy from the leftover sale), I almost got teary-eyed watching a young mother and her toddler check out their stash--books and few that came with accessories that had to be contained in important plastic pouches. What memories they are making of spending time together, choosing stories that, no doubt, will mean time snuggled together side-by-side as they explore the imaginations of Seuss and Dahl and Eastman and Peet.

This made me realize that, while my girl has a stash of books that would be the envy of many and a Kindle, too, I need to get her back to the library. Maybe she'd even like to join that teen writing group.

What's waiting for you to discover at your local library?

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