Favorite Memories from the Library
One of the most exciting things my mother could ever say to me was, "Let's go to the library."
Ah! The library! Pure bliss.
My family probably visited the library once every two weeks or so, when I was a kid. It was sometimes hard to wrangle all five siblings into our tiny car and drive to the library, wherein we would all be turned loose to run wild amid the stacks. Things changed when I was in high school, though.
From sophomore year on, I attended a campus twenty miles away from my house. We had a special arrangement with the school so that I could continue to attend after my family moved to a different city. This meant long afternoons after school waiting for my mother to get off of work in Pasadena and pick me up on her way home, generally around 5 o'clock in the evening.
That's how I ended up spending two and a half hours every single day after school at the local library.
I loved those afternoons, surrounded by books of any and all subjects. I could spend the time reading anything I wanted. Discovering new authors and new genres and fantastic new stories I never would have found otherwise. I discovered Stephen King in that library! The first King book I ever read was Gerald's Game, and after that, I couldn't get enough of him. I discovered fantasy authors like Jennifer Roberson in the library's tiny used book shop and bought all the books they had from her for less than two dollars. I found books on classic literature and books of poetry and books on the history of my family's cultural roots.
It also meant two and a half hours I could spend writing. Some days I parked myself in the farthest section at the back of the building and worked away at my earliest stories, pausing only to stop and look up something of relevance. Quite often, I'd pull down Latin-English dictionary or something on the Celtic languages, and that's how I came up with many of my early character names or titles. Still to this day I remember looking up words having to do with blood—sanguis—to work into my vampire tales.
That library was a true haven for me. Sometimes I miss the familiar rooms and bookshelves, and the smell of old books, the rustle of pages in the periodicals section, and even the children's section, where I looked up old favorites from my elementary school days.
Later in life, when I entered college, I upgraded to an enormous five-story library with entire wings full of amazing new books to discover, and even a special collections section on the top floor, with fancy glass walls around the most sacred texts the university had to offer. I only entered that hallowed place once, though, for a poetry reading--even that short visit, though, had a powerful impact.
Perhaps all libraries do, to those of us who truly love books. I'd say there's a sort of magic to them, but I'm not sure that's the right word. I think the wonderful thing about libraries is that they're not really magic. Magic is ephemeral and miraculous, and true magic may be something you experience only in the rarest and most incredible of circumstances. Libraries are not only real, they're a constant and reliable fixture of our society. And that makes them even more incredible.
Do we take our libraries for granted, perhaps, if we've lived in a country where most of the population has easy access to one, and can stroll in any time they want, and leave with a brand new, or old and beloved book in their hands? Free histories, free maps and languages of the world, free books to entertain and educate your children... free WONDER.
It's been ages since I actually held a library card and checked out a book. I may be an adult at last (at least in some aspects), and I may be free to 1-click all the e-books I want... but perhaps the time has come for me to return to that familiar, welcoming, comfortable world again.
Do you have a library card? Do you take advantage of it and still visit your local library? Tell us about your favorite library memories in the comments.
And remember: never take your library for granted. Support your local library, or better yet, donate to organizations building libraries in developing countries: