Growth of a Librarian

Library Love
March 24, 2012, 7:20 pm
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It has taken me quite some time to think of anything further to write about on this blog, but after reading The Library Book I’ve finally come up with a few ideas.  It was interesting to read about the quirky libraries that various authors had known and loved as children, and the impact those buildings had on their lives as adults.  This started me thinking about the libraries I grew up with, and the impact they had on my life.

I have always loved libraries, because I have always loved books.  As a kid I went through books at an astonishing rate, and the only way to have new books on a regular basis was through my local library.  Luckily I had parents who encouraged me to read by reading to me when I was very young, and by taking me to the library on a regular basis throughout my life.  The local library in the town where I grew up was quite small, but it was the perfect size for a child.  I could wander around without fear of getting lost and felt entirely at home.  The staff were friendly, there were children’s, young people’s and adult books (both fiction and non-fiction), a fascinating card catalogue, and even a big cage with three or four chirpy budgies.  Every summer there was a summer reading program that included events and prizes (mugs and stickers were common) for reading a specified number of books.  I seem to remember completing the reading challenge twice in some years.

When I was a young teenager the public library temporarily moved from the building it had been in my whole life to an empty store in our local shopping mall while a new building was built on the old site.  The location in the shopping mall was noisy and cramped, and I remember being very disappointed about the move initially.  The new layout forced me to explore new parts of the library’s collection, however, since I couldn’t simply settle in my accustomed corner.  It also meant that I had the unique experience of being a teenager who eagerly awaited trips to the mall not to go shopping but rather to go to the library.

The new building that finally opened to house the public library has always been somewhat disappointing.  It seems too big, almost cavernous, for the number of books it houses, and although modern inside it lacks any sense of character.  Although I continued to use this new library off and on for several years, I never connected to the building in the same way that I did to either of the previous two locations.  Perhaps the difference in my age had something to do with it, but the new building never seemed to have any magic.

It might seem that one public library (in three various locations) would be enough to shape one child’s love of libraries, however, for me it was only the beginning.  My elementary school had a beautiful old library, which I loved very much.  The building had originally been built to house a high school, so the library was not scaled down to the size of young children, and  retained its original wooden shelving which I perceived as towering to the ceiling.  The library was also overseen by a friendly librarian, who read stories, taught us about the Dewey decimal system, and helped us pick books for our assignments.  Every year in elementary school we had ‘library class’, which meant a trip to the library once or twice a week for a class with the librarian.  It was one of the constants that could be depended on each year, and was something I missed very much when I went to middle and high school.  Although both my subsequent schools had libraries, we rarely went there as a class, and never on a regular basis, so that leaving elementary school behind also meant leaving behind regular trips to the school library.

Other public libraries played smaller roles in my childhood.  There was a branch of a public library in a larger city down the road from where I lived that had a much larger collection housed in a much larger building.  As a kid it was always very exciting to stop at that library on a day out, where I was literally overwhelmed with new and unexpected choices in books.  The library itself was housed in a lovely building with big bay windows in the children’s area and a cozy fireplace in the reference department.  As I grew older I began to frequent other branches of the city’s library in search of new books, and it continued to be a keen pleasure to revel in the expanse of choice through my teenage and adult years.

Finally there were the public libraries that I stopped at briefly while on trips with my family.  My parents have always been very fond of car trips, and we spent weeks each year travelling across the country by car.  Scenery was not of great interest to me between the ages of five to twelve years old, and books were indispensable as a way to pass the time.  At six years old my favorite stops (I have been told) were at playgrounds and libraries.  I can easily believe this, since I clearly remember a small public library in a town near the entrance to a national park where my family often went camping.  Especially on rainy days my parents would sometimes take me to the library for a break from the rain, and I remember feeling at home among the well-worn chairs and books.

In looking back at the libraries that were important to me as a child, it doesn’t seem at all surprising that I should choose to work in a library now.  If anything it is only surprising that it took me so long to work out that this was what I wanted to do.  Clearly I am drawn to libraries as places that are homely, inviting, reliable, interesting and exciting.  I may not remember exactly when my fascination with libraries began, but I do know that they are unique places that I continue to love to this day.


1 Comment so far
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Great post!

Comment by Erica Beache

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