It’s Wicked Wednesday, when we all weigh in on a topic. And today, we’re celebrating libraries. In the course of our work, we’ve all been lucky enough to appear in libraries, meet librarians and readers who found our work through their local libraries. It’s a blessing to have those opportunities. But memorable library experiences happened way before we were all published authors. So Wickeds, what’s your favorite library memory?
Edith: I spent so much time in the Temple City Public Library as a child. It’s situated at the edge of the town park, so lots of playing went on there, too (remember when slides were made of metal and got really hot in the summer?). I used to sign up for the summer reading program, and had to draw a picture and write a short book report for each book I read. I always wanted to get more gold stickers than anybody else, and managed to do so a couple of years in a row.
Barb: The summer between fourth and fifth grade, my family moved from Montclair, New Jersey to Wallingford, Pennsylvania. I had spent my first five school years at a single elementary school in Montclair, and the move to another state left me feeling disoriented and dislocated. The saving grace was that the Helen Kate Furness Library was in our little sidewalk-less development of Heatherwold and I could go there any time I wanted. The Helen Kate Furness is definitely the library that formed me as a reader. I’ve written more extensively about the library here. My favorite memory is of the time the children’s librarian drew me aside and gently suggested that I get my books upstairs. I climbed the stairs to the adult collection and never looked back.
Liz: When I was little, my mother used to take me to the Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover, MA. My dad owned a business nearby, and during the summer it was a weekly tradition to stop by a couple times each week, which always coincided with visits to the library. It was here that I found the novel Daphne’s Book, my first young adult book aside from the Nancy Drew series. I loved this book, and even though I’d already read it (many times) I used to take it off the shelf and re-read my favorite parts every time I visited the library.
Jessie: I cannot possibly choose just one. Twenty years ago my husband and I bought our first home in part because it was next door to the library. My children’s lives and my own have been entangled and enriched by that space ever since. From story time to garden club meetings to discovering the works of E.F.Benson there has been so much joy. If pressed I would say standing in that building, surrounded by family and friends for the launch of my first book was probably my favorite memory.
Sherry: I was lucky to grow up in Davenport, Iowa a small city with a fantastic library system which I just read was the largest Carnegie library west of the Mississippi. I loved trips to the main library downtown with its towering shelves of books but once a week the bookmobile visited a nearby park and there was rarely a week that we didn’t go. In high school we went to the library downtown to “study” aka flirt. I looked up the history of the Davenport Public Library and the new library built in the sixties was designed by Edward Durrell Stone who designed the Kennedy Center here in DC. The history of the Davenport Public Library is interesting (women’s right to vote helped) and you can read about it here.
Julie: I lived in Duxbury, MA 1st through 8th grade. The town library (which is now an arts center) was my favorite place in the world. My mother is a voracious reader, and went to the library at least once a week. I’d go with her, and get lost in the stacks. I vaguely remember what it looked like, but I do remember the feeling I had there. Bliss.
Readers, what’s your favorite library memory?
I had a library card as soon as I learned to read, but my mother was a bit annoyed when I started keeping the books under my bed–nobody had told me I had to give them back. The most interesting library was the one in Madison, New Jersey, which was an old stone building with stained glass windows (unfortunately right next to the railroad tracks). The floors for the upper stacks were made of thick opaque glass, and they always made me nervous. It was turned into a small crafts museum when the town built a new library, just after I graduated from high school.
Very funny, Sheila! And a library with stained glass windows sounds pretty amazing!
Funny, I just wrote about the Allen Memorial Library in Scituate, MA where my Nanna would take me several times a week to load up on books I would read on her porch in her beach house as a young child. I can still feel the thrill of opening that large wood-framed screen door and stepping into a world I would never leave. During the school year, I hung out at the larger and more commodious West Hartford, CT library. Spending so much time now on St. John in the Virgin Islands, I am thrilled to have the Elaine Sprauve Library, a beautifully renovated West Indian style library available to me. I was so happy about it, I made Lyla Banks, one of the characters in No Virgin Islands, a volunteer there. I hope to follow suit. Thanks for the opportunity to chat about libraries, a topic some of us can’t get enough of!
I’m picturing that wood-framed screen door — libraries are magical places.
I was home schooled from 4th through 10th grade, and for a couple years Wednesday was library day. We would go to the downtown library (build around 1910). I’d have a piano lesson mid-afternoon and then walk across the street to the library while my brother had his. I had to finish my homework, but then I could browse. I would make the rounds of my favorite authors in the children’s room seeing which books were or were not on the shelves. And yes, I would work as quickly as I could to finish my school work.
I always checked out way more books than I could read. I was constantly renewing books on these trips as well. So you could say I started the habit of trying to read more than I realistically can early, too.
Ha! Old habits are hard to change!
I used to love the smell of the library at the University of Cincinnati. The card catalogues were my Google.
I loved how the old library in my hometown smelled too! It sounds a bit strange though.
Growing up, my favorite would have to have been the Woburn Public Library in Massachusetts. As a young adult it was the tiny library at South Fork School in Weldon, California. The nearest public library was a two and a half hour drive down Kern Canyon and into Bakersfield. Remember the old song “Kern River” by Merle Haggard. Same canyon. Hag lived at the mouth. The little public school let people in the area check books out. The books were shelved in a big walk-in closet. If you saw someone sitting on a chair outside with the door open, you’d know you could go get a book. It was a nice collection of books geared to local tastes and general interest. A lot of ranch settings. Cowboys. Indians. Indians who were cowboys. Local history. If you wanted something more cosmopolitan, you sent a postcard to the library in Bakersfield, and they’d send you what you wanted. For us that was 40 miles round trip to pick up the bag of books at the post office in Weldon. Chances were we had to go to town to pick up the kids after school. Libraries like that? They meant everything. Bring cookies to the volunteer. And the principal. She was a rancher. And the custodian. He was her brother. She got in trouble for giving leftover food away to people who needed it. He wrote the local history books. They made it all happen.
Fascinating stories, Reine! I’ve been lucky to always live close to a library.
On North Street in Salem, right across the street from the Pickering Grammar School, there was a branch library. It was housed in a neat brick building with tall, arched windows. The section reserved for “middle grade” books was pretty slim. But on those shelves I found two books, one right after the other, which affected my life from the moment I finished reading them. One was “Natalie Enters Advertising” and the other was “A Star for Ginny.” Both books told about girls who obtained jobs in the advertising field. That’s why, in seventh grade, I knew that advertising was the field for me. I planned my future accordingly. Worked out fine. I enjoyed a happy and productive career as an ad copy writer.. Later. . .much later, I decided to try my hand at writing for young people. Bought a book to show me the ropes. It was “Writing Juvenile Stories and Novels” by one of my favorite authors, Phyllis Whitney. Imagine my surprise when within the text I found the words. .. “My second novel, ‘A Star for Ginny. . .'” Kind of a full circle thing, wasn’t it?
Wrote and sold nine books for youngsters, now working on book #4 in my mystery series for Kensington, “Witch City Mysteries.” And the whole idea of stringing words together for a living began with a seventh grade trip to a little branch library in Salem. . .
Carol, that must be the library my mother took me to when I was 2-3 years old. We lived nearby on Foster Street. I had completely forgotten about it! I remember the walk though. We went down Foster Street to North Street and if you went right there was a little store a few doors down? that had toys in the window. I remember they had a cowgirl outfit I wanted and a pair of six shooters. That was a long time ago!
I lived on Southwick Street, Reine. Same neighborhood! Glad I could spark a pleasant memory for you!
I still go to the library of my childhood. It was built the same year I was born so we have a certain connection. I got my first card when i turned 4 and had to check out every Beatrix Potter book over and over. The pages were slick and the artwork was amazing. I learned to read by reading them and of course Dr. Seuss books. I went several times a week and still do now!! So glad we have one so close. Oh and of course there was a park there too, so all the more reason to go. These days it is one of the places I walk Tyler. And before my boy Rufus passed it was his favorite place to go ever!! So it will always hold special memories for me and we will continue to make more. Thompson Lane Library in South Nashville, TN is my second home!!
I had my own library card before I could walk and I can’t remember not being able to read. My father was a teacher, and taught night classes 2 nights a week. The public library was just a few blocks from his school, so once a week my mom and I would drop him off at the school and go on to the library. We’d go to the Children’s department first, and I’d see my favorite person in the whole world, the children’s librarian. I thought she was my fairy godmother, because she always knew where the really good books were hiding. After I selected an armful, my mom and I would go upstairs, where she settled me at a table near the circulation desk. I read while she looked for books for herself and my father. Then we’d go pick Dad up at school. Often he’d say those 5 magic words “Let’s stop at Dairy Queen”, and my night would be complete. Of all my childhood memories, I think these are some of the best. I don’t remember how the library looked or how it smelled, I just remember all those wonderful books that opened up my world and kept me entertained and informed.
I grew up in a port town in Kenya called Kisumu. Its the third largest town in Kenya with a library situated in the city center.My days in the library were usually the same until i got to read a novel ”Spies” by Michael Frayn. The book opened a whole new chapter of reading in me. I call it, a revolution in reading.
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