Friday, March 11, 2011

Remember the library?

I went to the library this week, and felt like I was visiting an old friend. I haven’t been to the library in some time, as I have more than enough books at home waiting to be read. This time, I was doing research for a chapter I’m writing for a book. In addition to the internet research I was able to print out from home, at the library I found three books, a DVD and a CD on my topic, vastly enriching my research, and the depth of my content. Now I have so much material, I don’t know what to write.

When I got to the library and settled down to work, I felt immediately comfortable. The smell of the books took me back to the children’s room at the library in the town where I grew up. My mother would deposit me there with my sister and a book or two, and go off into the bowels of the adult section to slink among the shelves. It felt safe to be in that room, just for kids, back when it was safe to leave your kids in a place like that. I could exercise my independence there. I could pick my own books off the shelves. Books that interested me. Books with pictures.

I remember getting my very first library card. I was five years old and in order to get the card I had to be able to write my own first name. I can still see that orange paper card, scrawled with my gigantic letters. I did it, and the card was mine. All mine. I could check out my own books with my own card. I remember the satisfaction I felt in having my very own library card. After all, with my mother being a bookish type, we spent a lot of time there; I had plenty of opportunities to check out books.

Fast forward to college. I loved my college library. Big as it was, I was totally comfortable there, like it was my own cocoon. I spent time there reading, studying, sleeping. Friends were everywhere. Once again I was in a place where I felt safe.

Going to the library this week was soothing. I realized that it was an escape from all the stimuli that bombards me, and everyone, everywhere. There is no music, no television, no computer screens (unless you want them), no telephones, no crinkling food packages being laboriously opened, no smells from the food that would be inside those packages and only calm, muted voices. Even the scanner used to check out books is silent.

It’s nice to know that when I need to get away from the world, my local library will always be a safe harbor. And never much farther than just around the corner.
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