It’s National Library Week.
My first recollections of a library were of that glorious smell of old books from the branch at the school in my hometown. I long for that aroma of vanilla and mustiness all rolled into one. I remember curling up on a metal staircase in the library, finding a perch by a window and taking in my primers.
I learned to ride a bike at an early age, the incentive being the bookmobile that magically arrived a mile up the road from our home in the country. I’d hop on my little banana seat bike, basket laden with the previous week’s selection of Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, past the pump house that provided the water to irrigate the surrounding corn fields, and onto the road that dead-ended into what was my grandparents’ farm.
There I’d find the library on wheels, waiting patiently for me.
I’d stand up my tippy-toes, reaching high up on to the shelves for a new Bobbsey Twins adventure, or to see if Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory were available to read. Again.
My high school library fed my fascination with all things Edgar Allan Poe and helped me embrace Shakespeare. On to college, and the quiet spaces got me through exams and research papers.
Then my love affair took a break, as I entered the workplace. Not much time to read, as I made my mark in sales and management.
I got married and had three children faster than you could turn a page.
And the library took a whole new role in my life.
In its collections and story time programs at first, and then, in a way I never would have imagined.
When our ten-year old daughter died suddenly and unexpectedly, the library provided sanctuary.
First within the endless bereavement books I read, trying to find answers where there were none, and then as the site of the children’s book festival we established in Claire’s name.
These days I’ve been blessed to be in sections of libraries that many people never have reason to visit. Places that require special permission to enter and have names like Archives and Manuscripts Division and Rare Books Room.
These places, with their old book smell, take me back to that metal staircase, getting lost in letters and hoping to learn to string them together to form a word, a sentence. And they take me forward to places that allow me to create story.
For libraries have seen me grow from that little girl learning to read, to a woman honoring her daughter gone too soon, to the writer creating books now found on their shelves.
So thank you dear libraries, and all the incredible librarians and staff who have fed my passion, supported my mission, and helped with my writer’s journey.
I think we should celebrate you EVERY week.