Wednesday, April 16, 2008

It's National Library Week

"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul." ~Inscription above the library at Thebes

I love libraries. Some of my best and earliest memories are of the bookmobile, a bus-sized vehicle stuffed with books that arrived twice monthly in our neighborhood. We wouldn't have been more excited if Santa's sleigh had touched down. I recall the high steps, and climbing them pretty much on all fours because I was so small. We could take only two books. Sometimes the decision was heart wrenching.

I think the main library was in an old brick mansion in Charleston, West Virginia. I seem to recall an upper window there where I loved to look out. I remember being saddened when it was closed, replaced by a much larger stone temple of a place downtown.

Back then, we kids didn't venture into the city often. Mom hated driving in traffic, and she got panicky in crowds. She braved the city only twice a year: Once for school clothes, and once for Christmas shopping. The shopping part was agony, but when that was out of the way our reward was a stop at the library, followed by Woolworth's for candy and a pet goldfish. The fish expired in short order, but the memories remain though half a century has passed.

Since then, I've loved the library in every town I've ever lived in. They've changed a lot in all that time. Besides the books and periodicals, there are music CDs and movies. There are computer centers for Internet access. It is possible to renew books online, and to download books on tape. The hushed quiet is gone, too, and I have mixed feelings about that. It seems proper somehow, to enter a library with reverence and respect.

So. If you haven't checked out your local library in a while, go explore. Check out your favorite authors and hot new titles. Browse way back in the isles you haven't seen before. And don't miss the bulletin board, where announcements of clubs, lectures and groups are posted. You just may happen upon something completely unexpected, completely wonderful.

*Poster by Mary Begin, available for purchase at American Library Association: Link.

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