21 August 2008
Booking through Thursday
Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. (There’s no way my parents could otherwise have kept up with my book habit when I was 10.) So … What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?
I do not remember my first visit to the library. I wish I did. It would be nice if I did. It wouldbe a good beginning to the story of how I decided to become a librarian. Alas.
My first memories of visits to the library are stuffed with disappointment. The old library shared an amber-brick building with the town's offices. The children's area not only was small and cozy for a child, but I was bored with it because I already had read nearly everything on the shelves. I would wander into the adult section and settle down with something that interested me, and the librarians would shoo me back into the children's room.
Blessings on my mother! She was, and is, a voracious, eclectic reader. I took after her in both curiosity and a preternatural ability to read when I was three years old. When she realized what the librarians were doing to me, she demanded an adult card for me. Much as the librarians sputtered, she won her point, and I received both an adult card and permission to check out anything I wanted. Anything! I can not imagine what the circulation desk ladies thought when I checked out books on Zen and collections of haiku for myself, and existentialism for my mother.
I was seven.
(Incidentally, those were the days when libraries would not collect Nancy Drew books or anything else that was so worthless. We've come a long way! Maybe too long. Last week, I cataloged a manga Bible.)
The library was so small that when I worked there as a page (at 15) (volunteer), one of my jobs was to fetch materials from the basement storage area for patrons. By the time it was rebuilt, I was in college, where I hated the poured-concrete, cold library with the bewildering Library of Congress classification system and the haughty librarians. I would use it for college assignments, but for my own reading, I would go back to town, where the reference librarian would be bewildered by some of my requests (Kalki? Gore Vidal?) but would accommodate with grace.
(This was a town that was so protective that a clerk in the only bookstore had to be convinced that I was old enough to buy and read Franny and Zooey at 14. She was convinced it was about incest.)
I've worked in libraries for 31 years now - 29 in the same library. That old brick building shaped my life. I raise my cup of hot, amber tea cup to those amber bricks. Cheers!