Janet from Derry, New Hampshire

In March 1962 I met my Fairy Godmother at the Taunton Public Library.  It was a chance meeting, after all, I was only 6 weeks old, but on that cold March day, my mother carrying me and a bagful of books stepped into a world that changed my life.          
  
My mother, an avid reader, made a weekly trip to the library.  There she would fill a white paper shopping bag with books for herself and for my grandmother.  It’s obvious to me now that on those weekly trips she harkened my arrival in the preceding days and months so the library staff was anxiously awaiting my first visit.  And on this particular day, I caused quite a stir.  You see, I’m adopted and after all her years of waiting- this was a momentous occasion.  As my mother retells the story, “Everyone gathered in around you to get a good look.  But Ruthie…she took a special liking to you right away.  She thought you were the prettiest baby with the most beautiful brown eyes.”             
  
Ruthie, as I affectionately called her, was the head librarian.  And from the moment she saw that little girl bound snugly in the layers of blankets she became my special friend.  She’d send postcards from faraway places so I could collect the stamps.  Invite me for lunch to the home she shared with her elderly mother.  She remembered my birthday and every holiday with generosity.  One Christmas she came to my house with a three foot stocking brimming with brightly wrapped presents.  I still have that stocking and hang it up every year.  But Ruthie gave me something more than gifts; she gave me the love of books.
  
As I grew, I spent countless hours in that library.  Sitting cross legged on the floor I would read DICK AND JANE and eventually harder books like NANCY DREW MYSTERIES and the HARDY BOYS.  Ruthie showed me how to fix loose book bindings, let me sit in the tall wooden chairs behind the checkout desk and stamp due dates on the book cards.  Then, when I was in middle school, she let me go to the second floor.   Here, tall stacks of old books and rare books and books that would only interest researchers or librarians lined milky, bubble glass floor aisles.  In a small alcove, overlooking the library front entrance, I discovered my love of researching history using a microfiche machine.       
  
Then in the spring of 1980, Ruthie died.  In the weeks before her death, I had a entrance interview at Simmons College.  Now I don’t know for certain but to this day, despite her pain and suffering, I believe she called the admissions office helping me get accepted.  You see, Ruthie was a graduate of the Simmons College Library Science program.  She never knew I was formally accepted. 
  
  Upon arriving at college in the Fall of 1980, I applied for a work study job- at the Simmons Library Science Library.  For my four year college career I checked out books, glued loosed bindings, learned the Dewey Decimal system and the Library of Congress classifications and met people from all over the world studying to be librarians.  I even found Ruthie’s picture in one of the college’s yearbooks.           
              
After graduation, I got married, moved to New Hampshire, and had three children.  Eventually, I settled in Derry, NH.  And the first thing I did?  Visit the Derry Public Library.  They had a children’s section, a historical section, even and a microfiche machine tucked into a back corner of the library.  I still sit for hours on the floor between the book stacks reading whatever crosses my gaze and research years of old newspapers on the microfiche machine.  But now, I don't go alone, I take my children.  I hope to give them what was given me from that special friend, the love of books.  So has the library changed my life?  No, it has formed it.