I got my first library card when I was probably 6 or 7. Back in those days (when dinosaurs walked the earth), we didn’t learn to read until we were 6 or so. These days, kids go to kindergarten already knowing how to read. When I was in kindergarten, we learned our colors, our shapes, how to take naps on little rugs on the floor, and how to be away from our mommies. Reading didn’t come until first grade when we met Dick and Jane. See Spot run. Run Spot run.
But as soon as I was able to read, Mom took me down to get my library card. I have had a library card ever since. And it isn’t something that just disintegrates in my billfold. I am an active library user. In fact, I am very happy because now I can have a library card from two different library systems. Look up geek in the dictionary and there I happily am!
We can thank Benjamin Franklin for coming up with the concept of libraries. Apparently when he wasn’t out flying kites in lightning storms (and who thinks that is a good idea?), he was spending time in the more valuable pursuit of figuring out ways to encourage people to read.
The library in Columbus (at least when I lived there; it has since moved) was located in a big brick building downtown. You climbed up the long cement staircase, walked through the wooden doors and were greeted by an array of books that could make you cry from happiness. I literally can remember to this day how it smelled.
Off to the right was the children’s library. When I was younger, I recall I was addicted to a series of biographies about famous people of all sorts – Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Florence Nightingale, John Quincy Adams. The stories were seemingly endless.
As I got a bit older, my tastes began to gravitate towards mysteries. And heaven, sweet heaven, I discovered Agatha Christie. My life was forever changed. The library had the complete set of books written by the Queen of Crime. They were hard-covered, and on the cover and the spine there was a little gun and the words “Crime Club.” I remember this distinctly because when I was in 6th grade, I had an Agatha Christie book on my desk at school, and Sr. Amica spotted it on one of her prowls around her classroom. She held it up and pointed out to the class about the sinful book I was reading. “Crime Club!” I remember her saying as she looked at me like I was Adolf Hitler. I remember even at that young age, and even being so painfully aware of wanting people to think the best of me, thinking, “Seriously? Agatha Christie? Miss Marple?”
Sr. Amica passed away that school year, and, well, that’s all I’ll say about that.
I began to think about libraries because Jen sent me a picture of something she saw during one of her walks in Fort Collins. Someone built a lending library of sorts in their front yard. It is full of books, and apparently you are invited to borrow the book, bring it back when finished, donate your own books, etc. I really, really love this idea.
I have mentioned before that I have become an avid ebook reader. In fact, ebooks are literally the only way I read these days. I get them from the library if I can; if I can’t, I buy the book either from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I like that I always have a number of books at my ready. The biggest disadvantage, of course, is that most ebooks are not sharable unless you are willing to actually hand your reading device to another person. I’m not.
But if I still read paper books, I would sooooo take advantage of this enthusiastic reader’s personal lending library. In fact, I would be happy to donate some of my own books to his/her cause.
One final word about libraries. When I was in college, one of my work/study jobs was to reshelf books at Norlin Library at the University of Colorado. I would get the books reshelved in quick order, and had enough time at the end of my shift to peruse the stacks. Even a few minutes to read. It was while working at Norlin Library that I read Dracula by Bram Stoker – in 15 minute increments.
Thank you Benjamin Franklin. You deserve to be on the Hundred Dollar Bill. Libraries were one of your best ideas.