Posts Tagged With: Libraries

Discovering Paradise

“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.

Empty space on the shelf? Say it isn't so!

Empty space on the shelf? Say it isn’t so!

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.

Because proper reading requires feet up.

Because proper reading requires feet up.

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's hopeful pile.

Today’s hopeful pile.

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

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

An eternity of reading? Sounds nice.

Categories: Books, Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Gratituesday! Booking It Big Time.

It’s Gratituesday!  Today I am thankful for school librarians and bookmobile drivers/librarians.  These are the people who helped me find the already written words that would shape the person I would become.  The results of their labors would probably surprise them.

Bookmobile

Bookmobile (Photo credit: revger)

One of my most vivid memories of the bookmobile which came to our elementary school not often enough, in my then young opinion, offers evidence of the twists a guiding hand can take.

The general guideline, the bookmobile driver/librarian said, was that books at your eye level were the books you would be able to read easily.  My eyes scanned the shelves running the length of the bus-sized van, and my body turned to look at the back of the vehicle filled floor to ceiling with books.  I wondered if I could ever read them all.  Then my body turned a bit more to follow the rows of books toward the driver’s seat and found bookshelves even tucked in near there.

I read some of the titles at my eye level.  Thin books, with chapters, large printing.

I let my eyes wander above eye level and saw fat spines, bulging with words in small print. I swear I could almost hear voices saying, “read me, read ME, choose ME!”  But then I had a vivid imagination.  I let my hands run along the base of that shelf, fingers brushing the spines of the above eye level books.  That touch was a promise I was making to them, that I would be back, soon, to take them off their shelf and home to mine for a visit, a get to know you week, a sleepover.

That first day I was a dutiful student.  I selected books at my eye level and envied the tall kids in the class.

Next time!  Next time the traveling library pulled in beside the artesian well water fountain and opened its doors to me, I would be ready.  I would write my name and stamp the card for one of those bigger kid books and I would read it all. I would practice what to say to the driver when she protested my book choices.

I wanted tall stories, wide vistas, big characters.  I would have them and so much more.

How grateful I am for those additional choices the bookmobile brought, especially when the school library had exhausted itself on me. The salvation of a bookmobile visit over summer break was sometimes all that got me through those long summer months.

Well, that may be exaggerating it some. But then, it seems I’ve always wanted more than the average.

I am thankful for that mental meals-on-wheels filled with books, filled with other worlds, filled with wonders.

Categories: Books, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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