Saturday, May 21, 2005

I felt like a little kid again, going to the library with my mom and younger siblings. My hometown library is almost like an old friend, being a steadfast presence in my life up until I left for college. After that, the library has become more of a professional taskmaster than a friend; stuffy silence that constantly tells me I ought to be studying and as focused as possible. But that's a thought for another day.

It was at least a bi-weekly ritual growing up - piling in our old '88 red 12 passenger van and invading the library. I'll always remember the slightly disconcerted faces of the librarians when the seven of us would walk in the door. In all reality, we were probably the most trustworthy little kids any librarian could want because we adored books so much. We would routinely become frustrated when we borrowed a well loved book, only to find out that the previous borrower had damaged it! We felt injustice had definitely been dealt on those days. Despite this, the sheer number of us gave each dull and stuffy librarian unusually alarming feelings. Their faces would perceptibly tighten, and they would nervously peer from their perch behind the counter to ensure that we were not desecration any of the ancient library books they so carefully guarded.

And then we would spend hours - yes, I mean hours, in the library, silently walking through our favorite shelves history, science, poetry, and fiction. At first we borrowed books we had never read, but we soon exhausted the small resources of our library and then it was only a matter of choosing the books that we most wanted to re-read. As dorky as this may sound, there is a certain relationship or feeling one gets when a book is read, re-read, and re-read again. Even the other day as my glance feel on the very same books I read ten years ago, I felt all those childhood feelings that I had while reading them; the thoughts, imaginings, and dreams.

Our dear librarians probably dreaded our leaving almost as much as our coming, though, because we would all come to the counter with 7-8 books each, easily adding up to over 50 books. I'm not sure if it was a library policy, or just a policy they made up for us, but after a few such visits, they informed us that our borrowing limit was 50 books. Period. At least it was easier to keep track of which ones we needed to take back. If we didn't have 50, there were some missing.

We never thought 50 books was enough. We read through them long before they were due, if not two or three times. Perhaps part of our problem was that we read our books all the way home, so half of them were read before the week even started. I would try and hold off from reading my own, anyway, but it never worked. If books are to the mind as food is to the body, one would have thought that we were starving all the time.

I saw all the librarians the other day - the same ones that have been there since I was nine. There are a few new faces, but the old faithfuls are still there. I can't say I remember how they have aged; they seem to have stayed the very same for the past 13 years. I wondered what they must think now, or if a thought even crosses their mind when we walk in the door now. At least we don't check out 50 books anymore, and they don't get the anxious looks on their faces when they see us. The funny part is, after 13 years, I still don't know their names, even though they know mine. In some childish sense, they never really had names, they were The Librarians.

At any rate, the childhood memories made me smile as my mom checked out my three books on music, the brain, and Beethoven. The library shall again afford me amusement over the summer. Hello, old friend.


Blogger Valerie said...

Have you seen or read about the Seattle Library? Its incredible. Can you imagine going there every week? Goodness.

10:09 AM  

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