Last week I visited two libraries: that of my former elementary school, and the public one downtown. In the first, I watched kids almost too excited for words compete in Battle of the Books. It warmed my heart to see them, at the end of the school year, answering questions about what they’d read. After it was over, they lapped up next year’s list like thirsty puppies. No question what they’ll be doing this summer.
In the second library, much larger than the first, I walked past the computers to the stacks. Although I think search programs are fine and great timesavers for locating material, I’d still rather do my own browsing. On some occasions, instead of looking for a specific book, or the latest book, it’s better to let the library tell you what it’s got. Nonfiction, usually biography, draws me like a magnet, so I wandered around it for awhile. Around the corner where some poetry anthologies were waiting, I began to read titles. I chose one published in 1936 and took it back to a long table to read.
I forget from time to time how much I like to sit and read in the library.
When I was in college, I would climb up a few flights of stairs in the library and look at the cookbooks. There was one I remember whose author raved about her mother-in-law’s home cooking, and tried to relay some of her techniques.
I’ve always enjoyed picking up the smooth, thin books in the children’s department. It is one of my earliest memories, and I tried to pass it on to our children, who are passing it to our grandchildren. It is no secret how proud we are that one of our daughters is a kindergarten teacher, and the other a librarian. Both are fanning the love-flame of books for others.
One hot summer when they were young, the theme of the elementary reading program at the public library was “Camping Out With Books.” We staked up our old canvas tent and the girls would read out there on folding chairs and sleeping bags. When it rained, a few of the books were ruined. We drove into town to pay for them (and check out more), and the librarian smiled and said, “You really were camping out with books, weren’t you!”
Of late, a strategy for teachers is to categorize their classroom books by genre in bins. The covers are in plain sight, which entice kids to rifle through and take them back to their desks to read. I second any arrangement that will hook a child to a book.
If you have a young person around, or if a young person has you around, encourage him to read. Better yet, set an example by reading yourself. Get lost in a book. The library is a fantastic place in which to browse.
Do you have memories of a special library?