Jessie, in NH where, as usual, Valentine’s Day is cold and the ground is covered in a blanket of snow
Since my this month fell on Valentine’s Day, the topic of love naturally came to mind. It took me a bit of time to decide which variety of love would be of the greatest interest to discuss with all of you. And then, as I looked out the window of my office and my gaze alighted on the beloved public library next door to my home, I knew I had the answer.
Since you are a reader of this blog I can only assume you have fond memories and an enthusiastic relationship with libraries. After all, which reader does not? I often think that the notion of a library represents some of the best aspects of humanity. In a world where things have gone a bit haywire of late, considering the way libraries have risen to recent challenges gives me a much-needed boost of hope.
According to the ALA, the first library in the States was created in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin and was a subscription service with fees paid by members. I think of it as a sort of early kind of Netflix. Also according to the ALA, the very first public library in the US to be supported by taxpayers was started in Peterborough, NH. I feel rather choked up to think such a thing occurred in my very own state!
Like love, libraries come in a wide variety. There are the grand, big city library systems with large budgets and vast collections like the NY Public Library. There are tiny libraries like the one mygrandmother patronized in her later years. Prisons have libraries, as do many churches. Mobile libraries have included those pulled by horses, in railway cars, or aboard ships. In Colombia, there is a program that uses donkeys to bring books to remote areas.
And what about Little Free Libraries? There is one in my own village and another at a lakeside playground a few miles away. In the UK, some iconic red telephone boxes have been converted to Little Free libraries. Home libraries are so loveable too. Which avid reader doesn’t cherish the notion of carving out a corner of their home, no matter how small, as a dedicated space for books?
Libraries have moved with the times and now, more than ever, they seem to me to make trusted sources of quality information and entertainment available to so many. While the pandemic temporarily closed many, if not most, libraries to in-person patronage, the digitized response to the situation has broadened the reach of collections to a remarkable degree. The Digital Public of America, the Bodleian, the Library of Congress, and the British Public Library all have a dazzling array of resources available online.
I have so many fond memories of the libraries I have visited over the years. One of my early childhood memories involved riding an elevator in a library in the Detroit area. I can still remember the swoosh and the hush and the smell of so much paper all in one place. I think from time to time of the library where I borrowed my first Nancy Drew. I remember the one at my high school where I spent every lunch hour. One of my most powerful memories is of being in the Bodleian Old Library with one of my sons and realizing that tears were rolling down my face from the beauty of it. And for the last 27 years, there is the ongoing love affair I have had with the library next door to my own home. Through the years I have loved patronizing it in person, attending storytime with my kids, joining the knitting group it hosts on Friday afternoons, and even holding my first and second book launches there. I could not have asked for a better neighbor.
This year, I think I’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day by heading next door to check out something new!
Readers, tell me about one of your library loves or a fond library memory!