For the Love of Libraries

It was my five-year-old’s first week of Kindergarten. We still went inside to pick him up at the end of the school day. Amidst all the chaos and scramble for unfamiliar backpacks, I absentmindedly asked, “So what did you do today?”

He stopped in his tracks and looked up at me, his normally huge eyes now enlarged to saucer-size. With both arms stiff at his sides for emphasis, he exclaimed, “They have this place. It’s called a lie-bu-rary and you can get books and you DON’T even HAVE to PAY!” He left his mouth hanging open at the end to express the level of his shock.

I laughed and squatted down beside him, backpack forgotten. My mouth said, “Isn’t it fantastic? What did you get?” but my heart said, “Yes, this is undoubtedly my child.”

12-17 turkeys at the library
We saw these wild turkeys just behind our library one day. The reflection of the books makes it look like they’re browsing. (c) Carole Sparks

Fast forward five years or so. My seventh-grader had a tough day at school, exacerbated by a post-pick-up trip to the grocery store. On the drive home, I didn’t say anything. I just pulled into the parking lot of our beautiful, stone-faced, fireplace-centered library that sets back in the woods. (Really, it’s more like going into a mountain lodge than a library!) Some girls prefer “retail therapy” but I knew my favorite bibliophile would get more satisfaction from this one stop than from a four-hour trip to the mall. We stayed as long as she wanted, “shopping” the aisles of the ever-growing YA section, whispering our thoughts on this title and that back-cover blurb. I put no limit on the number of books she could check out. And when we left, her shoulders were visibly more relaxed even though her arms were full.

I have my own fond childhood memories of a particular branch library (and the cones of custard that followed summer visits there), so I feel like a successful parent when I see I’ve instilled a love of libraries in my children as well. But even without these happy recollections, I sincerely love libraries!

In honor of National Library Week, I offer you…

Five Things I Love About Libraries

Free – There’s no cover at the door, no minimum purchase. You can enter as often as you like and stay as long as you want (or until they close, whichever comes first). The membership cards are free and never expire. Then, like my 5-year-old said, you don’t even have to pay for taking away the books. So no worries about staying under budget or “breaking the bank.” No expense means no excuse for not reading! (click to tweet)

Egalitarian – Anyone can get a library card, even Imogene Herdman, so anyone can check out books. Libraries don’t care if you are rich or poor, influential or inconsequential, charming or cautious. If you put a book on hold, you get it next, regardless of who else is in line. Your library card has the same limit as the rich kid’s down the block.

Forgiving – Even if you return a book late, the fees are miniscule. And if you talk too loudly? You might get a stern look or a “sshhhh,” but as long as you make an effort, the nice librarians will forgive you. One time, one of my children (I won’t say which one.) dropped a library book in the toilet—the TOILET!! (It was clean water.) We dried it out as best we could and confessed when we returned it. There was very little damage, and it was still readable, so they didn’t charge us for it.

10-23 library bookshelves (1)
our local library (c) Carole Sparks

Quiet – Maybe it’s the introvert in me, but I like a place with no muzak, where people are at least making an effort to be quiet. I like that self-conscious feeling when my shoes tap the hardwood section in the middle. I like the fact that everyone’s thoughts are respected.

Discovery-Inducing – This is the absolute best thing! You go in search of one book only to find two or three other interesting books on the way. The fact that you search the shelves creates delightful opportunities for discovery.

Consider checking out (literally) these great books about libraries from your local library.

(Yes, I recognize the irony of using Amazon links when I’m talking about the library.)

For the younger set: The Library by Sarah Steward, illus. by David Small
For Middle Grade readers: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics by Chris Grabenstein

When’s the last time you went to the library? What do you love about libraries in general or your branch in particular? Let’s celebrate National Library Week together!