April 16-20 was National Library Week and as a lover of libraries, I have to mention it. Of course I celebrated during the week by visiting my local library . . . and paying the fines for my overdue books. It was only $4 this time. Three weeks earlier I had to pay $9. Keeping books too long is a bad habit, I know, yet giving money to the library is easy for me -I believe they are some of our most important institutions. My current library is nice, but when I think of a library, here is the one I think of.
This is the one my mom walked me to, even before I could read. It was built in 1904, one of Andrew Carnegie’s libraries. The stained-glass window inside the domed ceiling mesmerized me for years. I couldn’t wait to know the people whose names -Longfellow, Humboldt, Edison, Poe, Hawthorne, Shakespeare – rimmed the edge. I remember thinking the library was one of the most beautiful buildings I’d ever seen. I still do.
This is the original library, in use from 1901 to 1904. It sat at the back of the same property where the new one was built, the cabin shadowed by the stone structure. I wonder what people thought as they watched it rise.
Long before I read Longfellow and Poe, Mom introduced me to Beatrix Potter – whose books were the perfect size for little hands, Richard Scarry and Dr. Seuss. We’d come home with stacks – another habit I’ve yet to break – and it was through them I grew to love the perfume of musty old books.
When I was in the 4th grade, my grandparents lived across the street from the library, grandma was a regular patron. One day she took me across, saying she had a surprise for me. Mrs. Gill, the librarian, was waiting for me with a pristine copy of The Nightingale, a book richly illustrated like an oriental tapestry. It was a Caldecott winner and she had saved it so I could be its first reader.
I finally met Poe in junior high, followed by Taylor Caldwell and others in high school.
It was only natural one of the first things I did when I moved to SC, was to get a library card. Through the library I met two of my dearest friends. It was a regular haunt while I homeschooled. And through my overdue fines over the years, I’m sure I’ve paid for a number of its books 🙂
What are your library stories?