It began when I was young – endless rows of stories tempting me with their colorful spines, lyrical voices spinning beautiful tales via books on cassette, unlimited book borrowing, and hours of imaginative play on the resident castle. Before I was even of the age to understand the definition of love, I was utterly enthralled with my hometown library.
Weekly trips to the Hays Public Library were the norm, especially in the summertime. It was a blissful cycle, shoving 20+ books through the outdoor return slots, perusing aisles and aisles of books, before returning home with bulging canvas bags of children’s books – only to devour them before the next week was even half over. Among my fond memories, a few stick out to this very day – thoughtfully-composed summer reading programs, huge binders of alphabetized library card catalogs (before library memberships were largely digital), the progression of borrowing books from the children’s section to the pre-teen section, then to the adult department – each provoking feelings of a rite of passage of sorts. Before I graduated high school, literally thousands of books passed through my childhood home between my three sisters and I.
The library took on a new meaning when it was completely renovated ten years ago. I didn’t return for several months because I was afraid that everything that evoked a certain emotion in me would no longer exist, that the glamour of my childhood may be gone for good. The day I did step back into the modernized space, I was pleasantly surprised that the castle of my childhood was still a focal point in the children’s department. In addition, the giant 3-paned window on the second level where I spent many hours staring down at the lively street below was still in existence. The windows had been replaced, though the original floor and staircase that I had used hundreds of time were still in their original glory, and the space still evoked the same feelings of being home. Upon further scrutiny, endless rows of colorful books were still the bones of the library. The love of reading is being passed on to another generation in a larger, more modern space that can serve the community far better than its outdated predecessor. You see, that is all that really matters in the end – the books of my childhood are still providing superior joy to new and budding readers. Readers who are falling in love with my library.
As an adult, life became crazy. When I needed a little solace, I often turned to the library. It became my calm in the storm. Countless hours were spent researching college essays at old wooden tables, writing pages and pages of ideas onto plain white notebook paper. Countless hours were invested perusing the aisles for an interesting book that appealed to some creative aspect in my mind. Countless hours just getting lost, sometimes wandering the aisles not thinking about anything at all. The library was therapeutic. As if I had entered a vortex where time stood still and beautiful silence pervaded an otherwise chaotic world. Even as an adult, the library made me feel invincible – life was at my fingertips and every book I inhaled could change my life.
As I noted in my last post, after making the realization that reading had taken a backstage in my life after baby #2 – I made a date with the library. Last week, I returned to the library by myself after a very long hiatus. My kids and I regularly engage in the colorful offerings of the children’s department, though it has been years since I took advantage of my serene happy place on my own time. The library was such a large part of my life in my younger years, that I was actually nervous as I broached the grand entrance of the library. I felt disconnected from this place that used to be my regular stomping grounds, where I poured hours and hours of creativity while perched at a table amid the quiet rows of books. In only moments, I was propelled back into my happy place, where my connection to the books is tangible. After a few minutes of perusing the aisles for several contenders, I took my regular place on the floor to silently weigh my options by scanning each cleverly woven synopsis inside the book jackets.
Now that I have children of my own, we spend hours at storytime, reading program parties and in the castle. My favorite librarians have since retired, though a wonderfully vibrant staff is a very capable replacement for the calm spirits from my past. I love toting E & L’s books home in big canvas bags, reminiscent of the ones that I grew up with. One of the most beautiful gifts that my parents gave me was my love of reading, one that I am diligently passing down to my children.
You see, throughout my life, the library became part of the definition of me. I can never repay my parents for the priceless gift of reading. Early on, they instilled in me such a delicious love of reading, and it literally became a part of every aspect of my life – how I speak, how I write, how I interact with others and so on. I encourage you, take a few minutes this week to find a little solace in your everyday – make a date with your library, it will change you!
Have a blessed day and thank you for reading!