Many of you can identify with the following story, I’m sure, and perhaps feel even more passionate about the subject than I do. It’s been a few years since I’ve been a habitual visitor to my local library. With my schedule it’s hard to get to the next town, and thus easier to ask my mom to go for me on her weekly trip and pick up what I’ve requested. That’s in contrast to my younger years when I would add my finds from the children’s section to the stacks coming home with us on a regular basis. But I love libraries just as much as I did before, if not more, now that I can comprehend their full value. A greater number of books are available to me now, too, more than what can be found in the children’s and the nonfiction craft section (under dollhouses). My appreciation has grown with my knowledge of the world. Big rooms of books are still some of my favorite places to be.
The two main libraries I use are modern as far as libraries go. One is in a strip center and the other is in a rectangular, mid-twentieth-century building that’s rather nondescript. Inside they’re roomy, with dark carpet, dark ceilings, and big shelves that look like they could hold more books. The Central Library is the more striking of the two. It has large glass windows in all its outside walls, giving its rooms lovely natural light; it also has an expansive basement area that could be creepy if there wasn’t a librarian at a desk right in the center. In the children’s section there are, of course, lots of books on low shelves, a large play area, and a humongous, brown rabbit in a cage—the library pet. (I don’t know his name.) When I was younger, I remember there being hamsters, who were quite a bit livelier.
And now for the library experience in general. Although the convenience of finding specific titles that you’ve been wanting to read, without having to buy them, is wonderful, what may be more wonderful is going there not knowing what you’re looking for, other than a subject or two, and browsing and plucking until your arms are full. The feast of words and knowledge spread between the covers tantalizes you, and you can’t wait to dig in. You feel a small triumph as you walk past the computers where the majority of other library visitors sit (not that you think anything is wrong with using library computers! It’s just interesting that you see more people using the computers than perusing the shelves). You’re going to have a tangible appointment with words, not a digital one.
You’ve decided which books are coming home with you, you check them out, load them in the car, set them by your desk at home, and then enjoy them for three weeks … at the end of which you find you want to keep them longer. You renew them easily and lengthen their stay another three weeks for a pleasant extended vacation that gives you plenty of time to soak in their information, enjoy their story, or take notes (unless it’s a novel like Don Quixote, in which case you return it after six weeks, take a break, and check it out for another three weeks-into-six weeks).
Two weeks ago that was my experience when I visited the Central Library and took out five history books. Out of the dozens on their topics, they appeared to be the best for my current research project, which is the first few decades of twentieth-century America and east-southeast Texas in particular. The historical portion of The Alice Quest called for such research, and I enjoy every passage, even if it’s not directly related to my story. Just the ambiance of the time period is helpful and inspiring. What I learned is a subject for another blog post. And you know what? Most, if not all, of these books I plan to keep with me for three more weeks.
Do you frequent your local library?