all of the selves we Have ever been
Words and Whispers
I sure do miss the library.
I am grateful for the recent curb service, but it is just not the same.
There is no other setting that can compare with the atmosphere of a great library: quiet, gentle, respectful, happy. Great minds and voices whisper from the shelves. I feel a sense of reverence and pride to be among them.
The library is there for every one of every interest and need. Public libraries are taxpayer supported and THE best example of redistribution of wealth. Who can complain about supporting a library?
Libraries put the free in freedom. The services are entirely voluntary, and the books and materials can be borrowed at no charge. There is no better deal anywhere, especially during an economic downturn.
Thomas Jefferson said, “I cannot live in a world without books.” Well, neither can I. Thankfully, during this long period of library closings, I have friends who have shared Kindles and mailed novels to me. My daughter grew into a book-lover too, and we’ve made some in-person trades. There are books in each room of my house and a few in my car. Often, if there is room, I can place something to read in my purse.
While I was growing up, books lined the shelves of our dining room at home. Magazines covered the coffee table. My parents did not have time to spend hours stretched out on the couch reading, but somehow books mysteriously appeared on those shelves and magazines piled up on the tables. That area of our home became my first small library. I picked up and read books my parents were enjoying like Fail Safe about a Cold War nuclear crisis and Rebecca, a Gothic novel by Daphne Du Maurier. There were Reader’s Digest Condensed Books—a real bargain, several books in one. My mom’s heavy medical dictionary and books about microscopic organisms lay on their sides on the bottom shelves. My dad was a wonderful amateur photographer and loved National Geographic. Copies were scattered in our little library and all around the house. One never threw away a National Geographic. Ever! Each copy was like owning the original, Pulitzer prize-winning photographs.
It was in passing from our kitchen to the dining room that I first heard gathered books silently whisper to me. They could not be ignored. No matter how many times I scanned or dusted the shelves, I was never bored. I could always find something new and interesting.
I have a vivid memory of learning to read thanks to Dick and Jane, their little sister, Sally, and pets, Spot and Puff. Dr. Seuss made reading fun with silly, catchy rhymes and memorable imaginary characters. But it was Nancy Drew that made me and AVID reader. I spent a lot of lazy hours lying on my belly, nosed pressed to the pages sounding out new words like c-o-l-o-n-e-l. I craved each installment in the series. Nancy Drew and her friends, Bess and George, lived lives far removed from the mundane lives of Dick and Jane. Those amateur sleuths were smart and independent, not burdened by the normal dreary demands of my own school-age life. They faced fear and solved mysteries. They were average and yet heroic. I longed to live the Nancy Drew life or at least become her friend. Nancy Drew got girls reading and dreaming, a pretty heroic act in itself given the times.
I don’t remember when I first entered a library. I do recall stepping aboard a book mobile in early grade school. It was the original Magic School Bus. It might also explain why I always keep books and magazines in my car. After the Book Mobile, that’s just how we roll.
In the small village that was home to my grandparents and where we sometimes lived when my father was deployed on military duty, there was a tiny library, just a little bud by today’s standards. On the basement floor below was the village jail which my sister, my cousin and I explored during a trip to the library. We hesitantly walked down the concrete stairs and peeked in. There was no one in the jail and the door was open. We stepped inside for a better look. As I recall, there were two adjacent cells with iron bars. One cell had mattresses propped up on their sides--must have been the padded cell. Creepy. We didn’t stay long, and we didn’t go back. However, it did turn out to be more memorable than the library. In retrospect, it does seem handy to keep jail and rehab in the same location.
Growing up, we stuck primarily with the school library as we lived in the suburbs and chauffeur services were limited. It wasn’t until college and graduate school that I had easy access to great libraries. By then community libraries were in full bloom. Today I live in an urban area with amazing libraries in every community. Public libraries contain so much more than books! Collections include films and music, computer access, digital services, newspapers, magazines, research assistance, help with your tax returns, classes, entertainment, daily programs for children of all ages, helps for senior citizens…And good libraries just keep reinventing themselves. Past, present, and future here unite.
No matter how many times a week that I visit a library, the books still whisper to me. All the great minds that ever lived are immortalized somewhere there on a shelf waiting to be rediscovered. In this contentious time, libraries remain the great equalizer. Your freedom ticket is inside. Our public libraries are our monuments to the power of free speech and public education. May they stand the test of time and serve as a reminder that words do matter.