Over the course of my lifetime the library has been refuge, magic carpet, and sanctuary.
Like most, my first experience was the school library, with a careful lecture from the librarian not to crack spines, dog ear pages, or write in books. I still cringe when I see others do this. She demonstrated how to use brightly colored sticks to mark the shelf, in order to return the book to its proper spot. She became one-in a long line of many-who helped me find both books and my way.
The library was an introduction to a new world; a world with sober, loving parents, warm rooms and close friends. While my mother did instill a love of reading, we often moved to follow work or avoid HRS. Consequently, my friends were found in Green Gables, Narnia, E. Nesbitt and Burnett’s England, and motoring with the Bobbsey Twins.
Eventually, I settled in LA with my father, and there discovered the Grand Central Library. To a little girl from a one room apartment in the slums, the building was quiet, austere, yet welcoming. It was there I was introduced to world religion and knitting. Both things would shape my life forever. The library gave some a safe place to go. It kept me away from troubles on the street and reminded me that there was more available than what I saw everyday.
Time passed and the State declared me emancipated, so I moved out. Only to discover that while I knew my parent’s house wasn’t normal, I didn’t know what was. Again, the library and a wise librarian came to my rescue.
I married and divorced. Eventually, my daughter and I formed a Saturday ritual of going to the library together. She would look for books that I would sit and read to her before bed each night, and I would study books on single parenting, careers, money and cooking. Even though she was too young to grasp the entire story, I couldn’t resist introducing her to the illustrations in my old favorite, Pagoo the hermit crab. We checked that book out many, many times.
When my daughter suddenly died weeks before her third birthday, I went back to the library. There I found answers from authors such as Kushner and books like “Are you weeping with me God?” And old friends, including Emily of New Moon, whose world hadn’t suddenly stopped and whose life hadn’t been shattered. I discovered both solace and strength from biographies and, when it all hurt too much, I escaped into other worlds with fiction.
Today, in a little town in the Midwest, I see mostly people at the computers when I go to the library. I still find answers in the stacks… “What Not to Wear”, “40 over 40” and “The Number”. My husband and I both have typical American jobs filled with stress, he relaxes with workouts and TV, and I escape with Coulter, Quick, Patterson, and Peters. My bus ride to work is relaxing due to an audio book downloaded from the library website and some knitting. When it comes time to pay taxes, I pay willingly, picturing that money as firemen, police, traffic signals, and life-changing, life-saving libraries.