Monday, February 18, 2019

Library Love

A couple weeks ago, my two-year-old poured his juice INSIDE my library book.  I freaked out.

Initially, I was upset because this was a brand new book (just published in early 2019) so the copy I'd borrowed was pretty pristine.  According to the book jacket, it also cost $27.  Ugh.

I have never defaced library material in my life.  In fact, I'm the kind of person that unfolds the dog-ears other people have put into the books I borrow.  I don't even let my son check books OUT at the library because I know what kind of damage he does to his books at home.  If he had wrecked a children's book, maybe I wouldn't be so embarrassed.  But seriously, how often is juice spilled into an adult non-fiction book?

Later, when I'd calmed down, I attempted to process my overreaction.  I've come to the conclusion that it has nothing to do with the book or with the likely fine I'm facing. It has to do with my feelings about the library in general.  You see, the library is one of my favorite places in the world.

I have vivid memories of happily going down the stairs to the children's area of my hometown library.  First, I'd get one of the "paint stirrer shelf markers" from the desk, and then I'd head over to the shelf with all the Roger Hargreaves's "Mr. Men" and "Little Miss" books.  If I found one I hadn't read, or one worthy of reading again, I'd mark my place in the shelf and settle into one of the bean bags on the floor. Not that I didn't check them out and bring them home, but there was something about reading IN the library that felt extra special.

I have clear memories of Mrs. Harding, the first elementary school Librarian I had, reading us stories when our class would visit the library.  Not only did her voice bring the books to life, she had toys and puppets that went along with the story.  Her "Clifford the Big Red Dog" stuffed animal was my favorite.

Due to participating in "National History Day" projects in middle school (and completely exhausting *all* the research materials available in my hometown), I also visited multiple public libraries in the surrounding area when I was a kid.  Bless my Grandma Betty who drove me to a couple of other counties and got a library card in HER name so we could check things out.     

The high school library was the place that Grandma Betty worked when I was a little girl.  That library was the place that I "pretended" to do research with my Model U.N. friends.  That library was the home of the little stage where the speech and drama kids got together to goof off and rehearse the upcoming play.  All happy memories.

After an unpleasant first semester of college working in food service, I was lucky enough to land a job working part time in the Business Library.  I kept that job until I graduated. My last semester there, the Head Librarian asked me if I'd consider getting a degree in Library Science because he wanted to write me a glowing recommendation.  At the time I felt like I was *beyond* ready to be done with school, so I turned him down.  Wish I could go back.

A decade later I was working in a public library in Illinois doing marketing and public relations full time.  That little girl who skipped down the stairs to grab a shelf marker couldn't believe that a grown up version of herself was going to the library every day and getting PAID for it.  It felt like magic.

Maybe that's it right there.  My son intentionally poured juice on my magic.  The magic that books give me to "go" somewhere when I have to stay where I am. The magic that books give me to simultaneously lose AND find myself while reading them.  The magic that sometimes happens when you read the words of someone else and realize that you're not alone.

Hmm.  Maybe I didn't overreact after all.   Keep your juice away from my magic, kid. 

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