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?