Childhood Library Memories

Due Date | Garrett Public Library | Garrett, Indiana

Due Date | Garrett Public Library | Garrett, Indiana

So was I destined to become a librarian from the beginning? One of my earliest childhood memories is of the library. In my small Indiana hometown (and you know it’s a small town when the library website’s top link is to an ‘obituary index’!), the Garrett Public Library sponsored a “Tuesday Toddlers” program: story time with the children’s librarian. I was always mesmerized by her awesome felt-board shows (do they still do those? Or doesn’t that keep toddlers’ attention anymore?). A few years back, my parents were preparing to move into a new house. I was helping to clean up in the attic. There I found a much used, grubby looking book, Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss. According to the due date card inside, I had checked it out in 1983. I hope becoming a librarian excuses me from the overdue fine. Or maybe becoming a librarian was my punishment? I kid! I kid!

In elementary school, the small Catholic school I attended had a library housed in a camper (true story!). Unfortunately, during a thunderstorm, it was struck by lightning. The resulting fire destroyed all of the books. However the teachers came up with an idea: to help build a new library collection, each student would donate a book on his/her birthday. It was fun to “check out” other students’ books. I also got a kick out of it years later when younger cousins who attended the same school would check out books I had “donated.”

Visiting with my Grandma Janice would usually involve a trip to her local public library. Her library, the beautiful Eckhart Public Library in Auburn, Indiana (here’s a pic I snapped on a visit last year), was exactly the type of library that I think most people picture in their minds: the old book smell, magazines, comfy chairs, wood paneling, large windows. My grandma was one of those people who always had something checked out from the library. I felt special when she would let me pick out a book and check it out with her library card. She spent a lot of time inside just browsing (usually looking for a book on the Kennedys). When the weather was nice, I would sit outside the entrance and read my books. Or sometimes I would go to the little park out back and read by the fountain.

Now lots of people can surely relay stories of “bad” childhood library experiences. I have only one. And it’s not that bad thinking back. When I was in 7th grade, I picked out a book at the public library and took it to the circulation desk. I was told that I couldn’t check it out because it was from the ‘adult’ section and you had to be at least 14. Really? As a 13-year old, I thought: “There’s nothing in that book that I haven’t seen on TV or heard my dad utter!”  The librarian told me I had to have my parents’ permission. So, I decided to show her! I only lived a block away, so I dragged my mom with me back over to the library. We marched up to the circulation desk. I told the librarian that I wanted to check out the book and I had my mom with me. “Are you going to let him check out that book?” the librarian snarled. My mom replied, “Well, I didn’t have my Wheel of Fortune interrupted for him not to…so check it out!” I got the book. And many more.

These libraries helped to educate me and entertain me. They set the stage for life-long learning. They are the public trust. Let’s keep ’em funded.

What are your childhood library memories?

Eckhart Public Library, Auburn, IN

My grandma’s library – Eckhart Public Library, Auburn, IN

3 thoughts on “Childhood Library Memories

  1. I grew up in unincorporated Illinois, so I did not have access to the public library. My only access was the small media center in the hallway of my elementary school. The librarian knew the kids from “Brandywine” didn’t have access to the public library, so she would let us check out books over school breaks and the summer. We had to have written permission from our parents and she mailed them a list of our books.

    However, my fondest memory was in the 6th grade, I loved biographies and by Christmas break I had read all the biographies in the small media center. After break, she told me that she had bought a new series of women’s biographies. This series took up 2 whole shelves and it took me the rest of the school year to read the whole series. I remember a few of the books; Clara Barton, Jane Addams & Nancy Hanks. But what I really remember is thinking that the librarian was the coolest, nicest, most caring person in the whole school. I also remember how special she made me feel, because she knew what I liked to read and she had bought those books just so I would have something to read.

    As an adult I lived in the same home for 3 years with my son, he had access to the public library, for a fee that was well worth the price, he was able to participate in summer reading and have ILL access. The library service had grown to meet the standards that my elementary school librarian had set (in my eyes) all those years before. It is important to remember that these services were not always available and how far we have come in providing good library service. It is also very important to protect the public and school libraries.

    On a personal note, I wish I remembered my special Elementary School librarian’s name, but I have tried to think of it for years and cannot remember. However, I do remember thinking that she was just about as wonderful as my Grandma and let me tell you, my Grandma was really wonderful!

  2. I grew up in Falls Church, Virginia and enjoyed going to our pretty little library which still stands today. There were a lot of old children’s books from the 40’s and 50’s that were still poopular. I grew up reading many of those such as Thorton W. Burgess, Esther Averill (Jenny Linsky Books), Clare Turlay Newberry (Marshmallow), Maud Heart Lovelace (Betsy and Tacy), Frances Hodges Burnett (Secret Garden), Rumor Goddin (Mouse House), Carl Sandburg (Rootabaga Stories), etc. Also, my mother grew up during those times so she encouraged me to read those books. I’ve always had an interest in children’s books of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. I think budgets were being cut in the late 70’s and 80’s due to the economic times so that might be one of the reasons there weren’t as many books at the public library and at the school library that were new and up to date. It was a nice little library, nonetheless and they did have a lot of paperbacks for older students like Sweet Valley High and Paul Zimmerman.

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