Thursday, August 21, 2008

Library Memories

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Inspired by Booksplease

Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. (There’s no way my parents could otherwise have kept up with my book habit when I was 10.) So … What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

Oddly enough for a member of my generation and a New York City dweller, I was a NYC native and live not far from where I grew up. In fact, I visited my childhood library yesterday - it's the branch where I get my reserves delivered. The library was just a block-and-a-half from my home. It was a modern, cream colored brick building, with contemporary blond wood furniture. The whole feeling was one of lightness and efficiency. I was taken by both of my parents (though usually one or the other) for storybook hour, held in a special room in the children's section of the library which occupied the second floor of the building. The first book I can remember being read to me there was Little Blue and Little Yellow. I believe I then borrowed a copy. I also remember some sort of orientation with a stern librarian who explained that when at the library I was expected to be quiet. It gave the place a sense of importance that one had to talk in whispers. It bothers me now, when I use my university library, to hear students talk on their cell phones or with each other with unmodulated voices. One of the reasons I like libraries is because they are supposed to be quiet.

We moved to a different apartment when I was around 11 or 12 and were nearer a different library, a much gloomier turn-of-the-century building. It had, in fact, been my mother's childhood library. The wooden furniture was of the old-fashioned municipal variety - heavy oak tables whose chairs scraped noisily on the tile floor. You might see such furniture in a court room television dramas from the 1950s- the wood darkened by years of contact with hands. In my teens I went through a period of being crazy for detective stories, reading everything I could get my hands on - all the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, all the Sherlock Holmes stories, Father Brown, all the Lord Peter Whimsey books, Josephine Tey, my Hardy Boys Detective Handbook was much prized. My favorite was Agatha Christie, particularly the Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot books. Once, to my extreme pleasure, I found twelve of her books I hadn't read all on the shelves at the same time. I checked them all out, being warned by my parents that I could never read them all before they were due. It was winter and my thick coast made it hard to tuck the piles under my arms. The plastic dust jackets were slippery against my coat and books kept slipping from the pile as I carried the books home. We lived a much longer walk from this library. To prove my parents wrong, I remember reading those books night and day, I have a distinct memory of sitting on my bathroom floor (perhaps because it was so warm in there) reading one of them. I am pleased to say that I read them all before they were returned.


SmilingSally said...

Good for you (reaching your goal of reading all of those books).

Cell phones in a library. How horrible!

BooksPlease said...

Great post! It always used to be quiet in the library - I loved that. These days it's all loud chattering, especially from people on their mobiles.

I had a phase of reading all the fairytale books I could find, then all the cowboy books which made me want to live in America and be a cowgirl! Oh and Agatha Christie books - I've just started to read those again.

Confuzzled Shannon said...

I use to love the thrill of reading my nancy drews from the library.

Anonymous said...

The county library's bookmobile came to our small town elementary school every other Thursday back in the '50s. I don't have the words to describe the pride of having my very own library card, the wonder of seeing all those books, and the joy of checking out six books -- that was the limit -- and being able to take them home with me, almost as though they were mine.

Thursday was also the day hamburgers were served in the school cafeteria and the only day of the week we could have chocolate milk. And it was the day we had spelling bees to practice for the Friday test. I loved spelling bees.

But that bookmobile -- that was truly something.

O frabjous day -- Callooh! Callay!
Surely Lewis Carroll was talking about Thursdays.

Anonymous said...

I love reading stories like this - the library was hugely important to me as a child. Luckily my entire family were readers and we collected books as much as we borrowed, but I always felt so important, so responsible - I suppose, so adult - bringing home a stack of books from the library.

Anonymous said...

You nailed my first feeling about the library when I walked in there for the first time in 4th grade. Feeling of importance. It was quiet, staid, and laden with suggestion of serious business.

Speaking of stern librarian, aren't they all stern with commanding presence?

Jeane said...

It disturbs me greatly to enter a library which is not quiet.