Tonight I went to the library. Not just any library, My Library. The library I grew up with, the library where I got my first real, paying job. And I realized just how much I adore it.
Whenever I walk in the doors I immediately get this wonderful feeling of being at home. I always check out the little new and hot section, even though I rarely pick anything up from it, and then head up the stairs into the kids section. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s the place I discovered so many of the wonderful worlds that I spent most of my time in as a kid. The place where I made friends with fictional characters and sometimes even fell in love with them. The place where I discovered authors who still make me laugh or cry, or sometimes both: Gordon Korman, Jean Little, Lois Lowry, and Kit Pearson.
(It was in a completely different library that I found a Bertrice Small book miss-shelved in the kids section, thought it sounded like a fascinating historical fiction, and got quite the unorthodox introduction to sex!)
One year I decided that I was going to start at the beginning of the young readers section and read one book off each shelf, something I had never read before. I’m pretty sure I got to about M before I got distracted by some other quest, but what a lovely summer that was! I would spend hours cross-legged in front of the shelves, reading the blurbs on every book before picking one and moving on to the next shelf.
Eventually I “graduated” to the adult fiction room, with its balcony overlooking the downstairs and its creaky floors. I can remember glutting myself with fantasy novels and historical fiction. I’m actually glad that the internet hadn’t really reached us yet, since it meant that I never realized how limited a selection there was — there were always lots more that I hadn’t read yet!
It was just before I started grade 11 that I got my dream job there. When I went for my interview I told the assistant librarian that I was scared I wouldn’t get the job because I always had library fines and she assured me that that was pretty much a prerequisite for working there — it was a sign that I loved books. I was in heaven, checking out people’s books and shelving returns. There was something immensely satisfying about looking up books in card catalogs and punching cards with the due date to slip into the pocket of each book. Does anyone even remember that system any more?
One of the favourite times working there was when we closed for two days to switch to the brand new computer system. Those two days were spent putting barcodes on every book in the library. And then when we reopened, we got to give out shiny new library cards to everyone who came in — I had card #00008. Of course, we gave out almost 500 cards before someone pointed out that instead of saying “Dawson Creek Municipal Public Library” they said “Dawson Creek Municipal PUBIC Library.” I think I possibly pulled something laughing that day…
Wandering around the library tonight, I was thrilled to recognize my own writing on shelf labels from one epic reorganization. Amusingly enough, I can still head unerringly for some of my favourite portions of the Dewey Decimal system, like 002 (meta about books) and the 940s (European history).
I pulled myself away with just three books, since I really don’t want to be racking up fines once again! So my upcoming reading consists of:
The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley. I actually own the book, but it’s still packed away somewhere, so I picked it up for a re-read. Susanna just mentioned that the book she’s working on now has Robbie, the child in The Shadowy Horses, as the hero!
A Proud Taste For Scarlet and Miniver by E. L. Konigsburg. I am sad to say that I have never read a Konigsburg book, despite many people recommending them. But I am proud to say that this book has been at the library since August 14, 1974.
At Home With the Queen: The Inside Story of the Royal Household by Brian Hoey. Just because it looks interesting. I like interesting.
What’s on your to-read list?