“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ~ Cicero
It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m grateful for libraries.
Elementary school provided my first introduction to a library. Ours resided on the stage attached to the gymnasium. We entered via stairs on one side and exited via the stairs on the other. I recall waist-high shelves, closely stacked and poor lighting. Books all grouped together in one room made me feel kind of giddy, even back then.
An old house served as a community library in the town next-door.What once served as bedrooms, a kitchen, a family room, transformed into meandering corridors of books. The open hours posted seemed almost random and hardly long enough to wander, pick some books and check them out. By then Mom knew enough to screen what books I picked, ten and eleven is a bit young for Clockwork Orange, don’t you think?
A few years later I discovered the city library. (How long had that been there? And why wasn’t I told about it sooner?) A proper building, several stories, iconic, white stone and temple-like, complete with hushed tones inside. Stepping inside I felt worshipful and closer to the reading Gods if there exists such a thing. Every book I’ve read since then that has a library as a character/place, I picture as this edifice, this homage to the written word.
This quote captures how I began to feel about libraries:
“I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my soul could be chinked with a book.” ~Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
At University I stood in awe before a complete set of the Oxford English Dictionary. I knew I’d arrived at the mecca of knowledge and wisdom. Endless stacks ran maze-like and beckoned me to lose myself in there. An entirely separate building housed the law library, the place a serious student wanting no distractions whatsoever would retire to for study and contemplation.
Now we live less than a mile away from our town library, an architecturally beautiful building that dwarfs the books and shelves they live on. Huge windows look out on my beloved Riparian Preserve, instilling a sense of sanctuary in this noisy and echoing chamber. Seldom does quiet reside there. Libraries now serve more as community gathering places, media centers, toddler racetracks, an escape from home, a place to come in out of the heat. Books seem almost an afterthought. Maybe the librarians simply want to draw people in with a kind of “if you build it they will come,” idea. Offer all sorts of tempting tidbits mixed in with the m eat and potatoes of books and hopefully reading and learning will occur and keep the world sane.
Maybe that’s what T.S. Eliot meant on saying:
“The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man”
I seldom wander the stacks, choosing instead to “place my order” online for books I want that get shipped in from libraries around the valley for my convenience.
Occasionally I’ll grab a couple of current months magazines and sit, my feet propped on the lovely log footrests to relax, perusing gardening tips, recipes and travel suggestions. But I get restless, the stack of books I reserved whisper my name, anxious to become acquainted in stolen moments, late night hours of lost sleep, waiting in lines, when other pressing matters linger.
Today I did browse and picked up a volume of poetry and a second Alice Munroe volume. I have three weeks, and three weeks more, up to five renewals unless someone requests one of them. I’d like to think I’ll read two or three a week, it’s been such a drought of reading these past few months. But I have one book from our personal shelves I started, one online book I promised to proof months ago, and a few gifted tomes I’d also like to delve into.
Such a decadent life I lead, surrounded by my own books, stories swirled throughout my childhood, novels seasoning every month and year, libraries making words available for free. FOR FREE!!! Amazing!
Grateful doesn’t begin to describe the feeling for today. Graced, blessed, rich beyond compare, for I have libraries in my life.
“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ~Jorge Luis Borges