I’m not sure of many things, but I’m pretty sure of this: I would not be a writer if my mom had not dragged me to the downtown library in Evansville, Indiana, when I was a boy.
Mom turned my older brother and me loose in the stacks in the lower level. That area, the bowels of the place, contained the children’s section. It was a basement, as I remember it, but it wasn’t dreary. There were windows. You could see the feet of people hurrying by on the city sidewalks.
“Get some books,” Mom said before disappearing for a long while.
When she finally returned, I’d have a good-sized stack. Adventure stories. Sports stories. Biographies. My interests were not wide-ranging, but there were more than enough books in the main library for a nine-year-old.
When we got home, my mom made me read the books. (A boy that’s grown into a man will still remember most of the things his parents made him do.) During the summer, there was mandatory reading time for at least one hour in the afternoon. It interrupted play time with my friends. I hated it. I loved it.
The process of going to the library and collecting books repeated itself every week or two.
I thought of my mom when I saw “Why Libraries Deserve to Be Hip” by Mary Elizabeth Williams at Salon.com. Williams reminded me why libraries are such a wonderful community asset.
Here’s a tidbit:
I’m sure someday I’ll get around to getting a Kindle or an iPad, but right now, I’m content with the smell and the texture of paper books, especially the from-the-library kind. I love knowing the book I have for a little while is on a journey through many different hands. I love finding the receipts and the postcards inside them, and imagining who they belonged to. I like the connection. Reading is solitary but libraries are shared.
I’m a member of her choir. Preach it, Sister Mary!
I don’t just think libraries deserve to be hip. I think they are hip. Always have.