“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” (Groucho Marx)
I relate to Groucho’s first sentence and chuckle at the second. If you are like me, there is nothing like a book. Oh, I use my Kindle, but love the feel of a book in my hands, turning pages, even sniffing the paper. Okay, the last one may be over the top, but I would guess I’m not alone.
Despite technology, I believe physical books will always hold a special place in our lives. And the holy of hollies, the sancta sanctorum, of books are our public libraries. Do you remember the first library you entered? You were probably a child, overwhelmed by stacks and stacks of books, an almost reverent silence (years ago), desks with reading lamps, or little alcoves to nestle into, book in hand. Perhaps your library had a magical place just for children. But best of all, any book was yours for the taking, for a few weeks at least. Did it get any better than that?
My First Library Memory
The library lived in an older building in Rochester, with its entrance on a side alley. Its dark, plum colored linoleum crackled under foot. I recall two sections, one for adults and one for children. One day, I followed my mother as she slowly examined the stacks. It seemed to take forever, so I found something to occupy my time. For some reason, the books I could reach on the lower shelves had golden stars pasted on their spines. When I finished entertaining myself, the pile of stars on the floor inspired my mother to check out with lightening speed.
Irondequoit’s First Library
When I look at the sprawling newly built library to serve the Town of Irondequoit, just north of Rochester, I believe people who grew up in that town in the 50’s could tell you about the seedlings of today’s massive “book tree” on Titus Avenue. I do not know if there were other little library start-ups, or if the one I will tell you about was the only one.
At any rate, it was a moderately large room, tucked in the back of a popular clothing store. You had to pass the shoe department to find it. For me, it was worth the hunt. Although it had only about five stacks, I could always find a book to take me on adventures and to places unknown. That’s when I first read about the Scandinavian countries and saw a picture of Scandinavian art. I loved that library. It was cozy.
Speaking of Cozy…
The home my parents purchased had an attic, complete with hardwood floors and a crawl space along the side of the wall. That entry, probably for storage, fascinated me. I would liken it to C.S. Lewis’ The Lion the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The enchanted wardrobe was like that crawl space. What lie behind the wall/door?
One night, I found the answer in my sleep. Mustering “dream” courage, I entered that crawl space. An old man sat behind a desk in the center of a small room. His lamp cast a warm glow around the walls that held stacks of books. “Read anything you want,” he said. And then I woke up.
What are your bookish memories? Do you recall what you felt and saw when you entered a library for the first time? My mother influenced my love of books. Who introduced you to their awesome power to entertain, teach, and challenge you?