At age 4 I had a challenge before me: learn to write my full name. The first name was, by design, not too difficult. I think I had that one down. The last name with which it was paired was the real rub – 10 letters and pretty unique. Once I had practiced to perfection, I was ready. I confidently marched up to the librarian. (At least, I felt confident on the inside. I may have actually appeared my usual shy self to the outsider.) She handed me a card and pencil, and I carefully inscribed my entire name. In return for all my hard work I received the golden ticket – my very own library card!
I have so many more memories associated with a library. I won a library-sponsored contest one summer with my Playdoh sculpture of Alice in Wonderland (don’t be jealous). My brother and I were limited to checking out only as many books as were years old; this helped us keep up with them. At some point I checked out every Encyclopedia Brown, Cam Jansen and Babysitter’s Club book possible. The library is where I found Who Stole the Wizard of Oz by Avi, the first book I lost myself in, and a Beethoven biography that inspired me, at age 9, to declare him my favorite composer. The library is where my mother passed on her love for books. It’s where I spent hours thumbing through card catalogs, encyclopedias, and reference material for my research papers (If you are too young to know what I’m talking about, click here.) It’s where I could cram for finals but not feel like the world was passing me by.
While I could be found in the campus library almost daily, the frequency of my visits to the public library waned during my college and post-grad years. The internet was my main source of information. Dare I admit that I let discount book stores take the place of any library for a season? And one day even the familiar smell of books, old and new, had faded for me. I knew my library card, wherever it was, had expired.
A couple of years ago, I resolved to revisit the public library. I got a new library card – one not covered in sticker labels and expiration dates, but bar codes and websites. The library had grown up too, and it welcomed me back. It was good to be home.
It’s National Library Week, April 12-18th, 2009.
Go get (or use) your library card!