A Lifelong Love of Libraries

By Liz, grumbling about the sneaky spring snowstorm and hoping the temps rise fast!

Last week, I did an event for the Murder & Mayhem mystery group at the South Windsor Public Library here in Connecticut. I’d never been to this library before and was delighted to go. It gave me a chance to not only meet new readers and mystery lovers, but to check out a new library.

As a lifelong reader and writer, libraries have always been a sacred place for me. I was fortunate enough to have a mother who read to me from day one, and those were always my favorite childhood memories. She began taking me to the library as a toddler, and it became our weekly date. When I was a bit older, my father ran a small driving school nights and weekends in North Andover, Massachusetts, and on Saturdays we’d go visit him. But before we did that, we’d go to the library.

An adorable “free library” I found while visiting Woodstock, New York last year.

The children’s area in the Stevens Memorial Library was in its own room on the first floor. I could wander the shelves for hours, just browsing, checking out new titles, authors, and covers that peaked my interest. When I got older, my mother would leave me down there while she went up and looked at her own books. I found my favorite young adult book there – Daphne’s Book, a story about a young girl who grudgingly partners up with a classmate to do a project and learns about her tragic family life. (I was so delighted to see this book is still in print, and even reissued with a new cover!)

I used to check that book out once every couple months and re-read it. If I had time, I’d curl up on the floor and read some chapters from a favorite Judy Blume or Nancy Drew story. And always, I’d go home with a pile of books.

After my father closed his driving school, we spent more time at our hometown library, the Nevins Memorial Library in Methuen. It was here that I experienced many firsts: first significant research paper, first school project with friends and even first major grounding episode. Yes, during one memorable adventure researching skin for a science fair, I got home late and was grounded. (Yes, from the library. Yes, my parents had no idea what other kids were getting up to.)

Heading to an author event with some of the Wickeds last summer in West Newbury, Mass.
Heading to an author event with some of the Wickeds last summer in West Newbury, Mass.

As an author, it was an amazing experience to be invited to Nevins on two occasions to promote my books. It felt like visiting an old, familiar friend. And really, any library I’m lucky enough to visit is perfect. As soon as I walk inside, it feels like home.

Readers, what’s your favorite library story?

36 Thoughts

  1. I don’t know if I have any favorite library story, but I have always loved going to the library. It’s wonderful to just wander in the Mystery section or New Releases & see if I discover a new to me author. When I do see a cover or title that catches my eye, I eagerly read the back to see if I’m adding a new series to my ever growing Goodreads list. It’s wonderful to look up the author to find my newly found series has a list of many other titles. Even better is when the author has several other series I want to read. I’ve been enjoying reviewing books as well so that adds to the experience as well & let’s me help the authors by posting reviews.

  2. When I was young I too went to the library with my mother. One day – this is preschool and I was probably 4-5 I picked out a book to take home. The librarian thought it was too old for me – not the content, it was a story about horses – so she had me read a paragraph. After that I was allowed to take out any book I wanted to. This was a small library where the librarian just wrote your name on a card when you took a book out – she knew everyone in town.

    1. That’s awesome, Gram! I’d already passed the reading test at home with my mother, so unless she thought it was too “adult” I could also take out anything I liked.

  3. Lovely memories, Liz. I also grew up in the library of my home town, and I loved letting my sons loose right there in the West Newbury library of your picture. But my favorite story is this: I was 18 and trying to learn something about sex – yes, from a book! I was living at home for a semester and going to community college before heading to university. I was sitting in my local library reading Masters &Johnson Explained (or some such title) when my FATHER walked into the library. I dragged my Economics book on top of that sex book as fast as I could and said, “Hi, Daddy,” with a red face.

  4. I loved our local library in Davenport, Iowa. It was a Carnegie Library and I can still remember how it smelled. It had to be replaced and Edward Durrell Stone, who designed the Kennedy Center, designed the new library. Here’s a link about it’s history and it shows a photo of the new library. http://www.davenportlibrary.com/about-the-library/history/
    We were also lucky to have bookmobiles so every Friday we could get books by walking to a nearby park.

  5. When I was growing up in New Jersey, we had a wonderful old library (built in 1900) in walking distance in town (the only negative was it was right against the railroad tracks, but the trains didn’t run all that often). It looked more like a church than a library. Inside was a large high-ceilinged reading room, and two stories of book stacks. The odd thing was, the floor that separated the two floors was cloudy reinforced glass, so if you were looking for a book on the second floor, you always wondered if someone could look up your skirts. The building is now the Museum of Early Crafts and Trades (at least it’s still standing!).

  6. I love libraries and have so many lovely memories of the times I spent there with my mom. She took me to the library at least once a week. Here in Baltimore we have the Enoch Pratt Free Library. When I was about seven years old my mom , my sister and me went for our weekly adventure. The branch on Light Street was walking distance from our house. My sister must have been about two at the time and still just toddling around. Mom and I were absorbed in our book search and didn’t notice my sister wander off. Within seconds she fell against the old radiator and busted her head wide open! Mom snatched her up and held a tissue to her head as we ran the three blocks over to Dr. Ellison’s office for stitches. Of course, we checked out our books first!

  7. I remember going to the library in Lawrence when I was learnint to read. For some reason I remember Mrs. Pickerell goes to Mars, my first science fiction book. I read every science book I could find. When I read everything, I went up to the adult library and read the Avalon series science fiction books. They had a listing of their books on the back cover. I was not old enought to check them out, so I read them in the library. I found out later that “girls” did not read science fiction. An early geek before it became popular.

    The reference library had a large collection of Irish history. One book had the genealogy of the British Royalty going back to Adam and Eve. Lots of begats there. They also had the Gaelic alphabet. In highschool I spent many afternoons and Saturday researching and reading subjects that interested me. It was my “internet”. One time I spent several hours researching the history of the Roman empire to the present.

    Libraries are still Fascinating! The Vancouver BC library is very interesting. It looks like the Roman Forum. It was the first time I saw a line of people waiting to enter the library. The library was in a shopping mall. Outside the library were small shops where you could buy pastries, another sold pizza and there were other small shops. People would be reading their books at tables outside the shops and having something to eat.

  8. Libraries are so central to my life. My father was a professor at St. Joseph’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and we could use the library there. He often left us in the children’s section while he held office hours. There were wonderful, comfortable chairs to sit in and an incredible collection of books. We didn’t own a television until we got a second hand one in the summer between 8th and 9th grade, so our entertainment was reading. We also used the Emmitsburg Public Library. I got a job there when I was 12, working 10 hours a week reshelving books. That also meant that I got first pick of new books arriving. My mother got her library degree when I was in college and so, after her graduation, the Gettysburg Public Library and Mount St. Mary’s Library, where she worked, became familiar locations. And my sister was a librarian for the Daughters of the American Revolution here in the D.C. area for over 25 years. When my ex-husband and I took my son for a college visit to the University of Pennsylvania, our alma mater, I showed him my favorite study kiosk and book collection in the main library (his father showed him his favorite bars).

  9. My hometown library was–and is–a wonderful, magical place. It was a 2 minute walk from my house, and I was allowed to go there by myself by the time I was 7 or 8 (times were different, then). The children’s room was large and well-stocked by small-town standards anyway, and I read through the entire Encyclopedia Brown, Little House, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, Mary Poppins, and Oz series many times, as well as those simplified biographies of famous people. Then there was Judy Blume, and the Henry Huggins/Ramona & Beezus series. I also discovered Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie there. Later, when I was a teenager, I would often take my homework and do it at the library, since my house was full and noisy (I’m the oldest of 5, and our house was not large). The library is still in the same beautiful Gouverneur marble building as it was then, and they’ve recently opened up a gorgeous loft for reading. Seriously, I’d like to just move in there. https://www.facebook.com/gouverneurpubliclibrary/?fref=photo

  10. I used to love going to the library when I was little. My dad was a college professor. Two nights a week he taught night classes. The public library was just a few blocks from his school, so one of those nights Mom and I would drop him off then go to the library. It was a magical place for me. So many books, and I could read as many as I wanted to. New places to visit, new friends to make, new things to learn. Mom would drop me off in the children’s section and go to the adults to find books for herself and for my dad. I would browse a bit, find the books I wanted to take home, then curl up in the reading area and get started, while waiting for her to come pick me up. We each would have a large stack to take home, and by the time we got checked out, it was time to pick my dad up. As an added bonus, we’d stop at Dairy Queen on the way home. I still get that same thrill when I walk into my local library. So many adventures waiting for me to discover.

    1. That’s such a theme here today – the traditions around going to the library are as special as the libraries themselves. Thanks for your comment!

  11. The main library in the town where I grew up was also an old one (190Something). It was in the heart of downtown, and we’d go there every week for an afternoon. My brother and I had piano lessons nearby, and we’d hang out at the library afterward until Dad (who also worked downtown) got off work. I’d usually have some school work to finish, but I’d rush through that so I could browse the books. I would go through the fiction section and say hello to my friends – the books by my favorite authors. And I’d always wind up with a stack of books I’d never be able to read to check out. Plus I’d be renewing some that were due that day.

    When I was in college, a library opened up within walking distance of my parent’s house. I used it some before I transferred from the local community college, but it never felt like home like the library downtown did.

  12. My father encouraged us to make use of the library . . . small house, five children, room for a few books and a set of encyclopedias, but for voracious reading, the library was ideal. A book mobile came to school to supplement the school library, but there was a strict limit on number of books, so I looked for the largest ones, so they would last. During my working years I accumulated many (too many? surely not!) books, but now, retired, with a full house and time to read voraciously again, the library is again first in my heart. It’s also my go-to place “where everybody knows your name” with book clubs, story swap, and stitchers group, and always someone to cheer me up. 😉

  13. I remember being something like 8 when I figured out books in the library were arranged by author last name. I announced my discovery to my mother who apparently thought everyone was born knowing that. Her lame response did not dampen my excitement. I went on to get an MLS.

    So glad to read a post about Andover/North Andover/Methuen. I lived in the area for 20 years and still have fond memories, especially of the Andover library. I have a favorite bright-green tote from their annual book sale and it’s still going strong!

  14. Love of libraries ( the smell) not just reading focused my career choice of becoming a librarian. Academic libraries until 10 years ago. Now I’m in my 1st public library. What a wonderful world to work in! And, I still read every chance I get & I’m always one the first on the hold list (I know what we’re buying before the customers) but some of them still get ahead me. Not sure they do that!

  15. When I was growing up the Bradford County Library had an annual young author writing contest. You had to be in 8th grade or younger to enter and children would write short stories to be judged by the librarians. Each grade had a winner and runner up and those two children had their stories bound and placed in the library for others to read! It was amazing to me, and I was enthralled with the idea of getting my story published in the library. I entered every year from first grade, wishing I could win my grade. Sadly, it never came to be, but I have fond memories of writing and drawing books for the contest and reading the winners from the library over and over again.

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