Thursday, February 19, 2009

Theme Thursday: Library

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. – Cicero

A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. – Chinese Proverb

by Valerie Worth

No need even
To take out
A book: only
Go inside
And savor
The heady
Dry breath of
Ink and paper,
Or stand and
Listen to the
Silent twitter
Of a billion
Tiny busy
Black words.
-From All the Small Poems and Fourteen More. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1994, p. 163. taken from 10/23/2006

I would say that it has been the library that has saved me. Not just once, but over and over, in different towns and cities down the decades.

The first one I remember going to was on Long Island, and it seems that it was housed in a basement, because I don't remember any windows. But I do remember getting my first library card there. It had a little metal strip on it that must have been used to make an impression on something—the cards in the books? I can't remember.

Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book. – Author Unknown

In elementary school, during the summer, I spent a good deal of time in the Children's Room (in the building, above). For a painfully shy child, the library opens a door to swirling worlds where the words on the page sometimes can't keep up with the images in the mind. Read Thimble Summer, if you haven't. Chapter 5, "Locked In," is about being so caught up in reading that two girls don't even realize that the librarian has locked up and gone home for the night. That author also created the wonderful Melendy family. The Edward Eager books; LM Boston's Green Knowe series (I was lucky enough to visit the actual house and meet Lucy Boston's daughter-in-law); EC Spykman's Cares family (if any one knows where to get a copy of The Wild Angels, let me know); Eleanor Estes; Eleanor Farjeon's The Little Bookroom . . . well, I could go on.

High school: I would spend many an afternoon downstairs in the To Be Discarded section of the Bellevue Avenue branch, reading all sorts of odd ball books. I could never get a job there, though, as library jobs were the most coveted. (I cleaned houses instead.) However, since 7th grade, L has been lucky enough to have volunteered every other Saturday in our local library up here.

A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. – Shelby Foote

College; the library was a good place to hide out, way upstairs in the stacks, reading instead of doing whatever assignment was due.

Libraries are reservoirs of strength, grace and wit, reminders of order, calm and continuity, lakes of mental energy, neither warm nor cold, light nor dark. . . . In any library in the world, I am at home, unselfconscious, still and absorbed. – Germaine Greer

When L was just a kindergartner, I worked at the library in the next town over as the library assistant. The Librarian, who truly truly put the patrons first in everything, was nevertheless a Luddite who refused to get rid of the card catalog and hid the computer in the basement until the last possible moment. I think a library trustee struggled up the stairs with it. But after it was set up, it was hidden away in the most inconvenient part of the building. Even now, when I went to the library's web site for this post, I found that it is still "under construction." Ha! Every patron had his or her own library number, and most people were affronted if I didn't know theirs by heart. So I soon learned.

That library was all things—the hand-off spot for divorced parents, a rendez-vous point for various dates, studying, political fomenting. You name it.

What would I do without the library? Here, because of budget cuts and the anti-intellectualism of the County Commissioners, the downtown library is no longer open on a Sunday. When it was, there was nothing like a grey winter afternoon, spent perusing the stacks. And the payoff a satisfying armload to dump and dip into.

A good book has no ending. – R.D. Cumming


Anonymous said...

Neat little story, tut-tut. And I like the quotes :)

Brian Miller said...

Nice post. I wish our library was still the "all things" of our community. Happy Thursday!

Gledwood said...

I do love the smell of old books... libraries full of dark wood aromatic of furniture polish are the best ;->...

Tess Kincaid said...

I love the Valerie Worth poem!

Joanne said...

It's something you can always, always count on, that library peace. Love the quotes here.

Kurt said...

My local library is always under construction, no matter what city I have lived in. Maybe it's cheaper to pay for upgrades than to pay for staff.

Candie said...

Nice post.
Love the Cicero saying.

The Clever Pup said...

Our library has never been open on Sundays.

I think libraries always have to fight to survive in times like these.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

wonderful post.... I like this idea of framing one's life through the libraries of one's life!

how tragic that your communities county commissioners are not supportive of the library.

reading about your first library card made me wish I had kept all of my library cards ....I have had so many over the years. now we are in the era of the barcode....I wonder what will be next?

in our community it is a crazy quilt of which libraries are open on sundays and which aren't.... in lakewood even the little branch is open on sundays. not surprising that the lakewood public library has been the #1 library in the nation for cities it's size for years on end!

JGH said...

Enjoyed this post so much -- You got me thinking about some of the libraries that I spent time in throughout my life. I still remember the shelves and stools in the childrens section of my hometown library in Largo, Fl, and the cubicles at my college libary where I spent many hours.

Colette Amelia said...

Great quotes! Now call me crazy but what is closing the library on sunday all about?

I would think that this day of all the days would be the one that it is open, usually a day that all the family can get together because the chores are done and what better way to spend it nurturing love and knowledge and love of knowledge?

Roy said...

A life measured in libraries! I love this take on the theme, tut-tut.

Our library is open on Sundays from 1 - 5 pm. And actually, this was an innovation; up until about 5 years ago the library was closed on Sundays. I have no idea who convinced them to open up.

e said...

Times spent in libraries---a great and interesting way to frame one's life. I also loved your quotes. Regarding the anti-intellectuallism and struggling of libraries in these times...Both are good points, but sometimes commissioners have the unfortunate task of having to cut budgets--and too often it is the libraries that get short shrift. Many people mistakenly believe that libraries have become superfluous due to the Internet, and think they are doing tax payers a favor by cutting weekends rather than days when kids gather there after school. Both are needed as are homebound services and budgets for technology and services for persons with disabilities.

How many of you are aware of your library's annual usage stats or constituencies???

Where I live, much of our economy is tourist-based, and because wage levels are often lower than the rest of the country and we have no state income tax, budgets are always tight. With the economy in the worst condition I have ever seen, things will only grow tighter, and the libraries will have to make due with less and provide for many who are down on their luck at the same time. Where I live, more people use the libraries than visit tourist attractions. That could be because the attractions have become expensive, but it might also be because seniors, singles, families and kids all know a better deal when they see it.

I hope all of you will learn about your library, who uses it, its history and your own stats, if nothing else so you can challenge the politicians where you live to make better decisions on your behalf. Sorry for the lengthy post.

Anonymous said...

Libraries, one of my favorite topics! I haven't seen a library open on Sunday, either here in rural WI or back in Minneapolis, for at least 10 years. Sad, really. One hopes that the powers that be looked at the daily stats before deciding that Sunday was the day to cut. I have observed that Friday evenings were the next to go.

I have been on all sides of the circ desk -- a long-time library patron, an assistant librarian, and now a county supervisor (that's what we call commissioners in WI) -- and have supported and fought for libraries all along. Budgets are cruelly tight, and libraries have to defend their existence and their services every budget cycle. I have been able to help our county library, one that is perennially on the chopping block because few people understand how unique its services are, reinvent itself and its mission to be more defensible and more efficient. I hope that helps when budget time rolls around again this year.

But I will never understand why people who don't use libraries or books feel that they have the right to close the library and deny the rest of us its wonder and usefulness.

Reya Mellicker said...

Beautiful tribute to libraries. Wasn't the great library of ... Alexandria?? ... one of the seven wonders of the world. I probably have that wrong.

I do love the smell of books.

Barbara said...

I had completely forgotten about the little metal strip on my first library card. That seems like a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Reya you are correct about the Alexandria library. Alas, it was burned to the ground in antiquity. Imagine, a couple thousand years of written history-gone forever :(

Squirrel said...

Loved this post--what a great hand off spot--sure beats McDonald's!

I remember all of my earliest childhood libraries and many very nice librarians. Also school libraries as I bounced from school to school, some grade schools had great little libraries, one didn't have any at all!

wish I'd saved library cards, too.

edward said...

i would like a library card. i think i'll get someone to make one for me.

Dot-Com said...

Lovely poems. The smell of books is amazing, isn't it?

Megan said...

Now you got me thinking about all the libraries in my life. I agree with Roy, a great take on the theme, T!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Cicero- gardens and libraries. I really enjoyed reading your post. I will be looking up some of the books you mention; and libraries are the best place for a shy teenager to hide- i speak from experience :)

Squirrel said...

I forgot the tote bag part of my post-- which is a shame. tsk tsk tut tut

Anonymous said...

Our local library has ridiculously shortened hours. And you have to sign a statement acknowledging that if your book is overdue, you have comitted theft. When that policy went into effect, I handed in my card.

Baino said...

After this week's theme I feel like such a Philestine . .super post.

I'm now compulsed to at least 'think' about heading to at least one library if only to take it's photograph! I'm still looking for something to save me, wouldn't it be ironic if I found it at the library?

Kris McCracken said...

Libraries as God?

Merle Sneed said...

We live two blocks from out library and it is always an adventure as to what the operating hours are on a given day. Constantly changing.

CocoDivaDog said...

oooooh Tut,
I love your post.
You brought back many memories of (school)libraries from long long ago.
Funny, I never went to public libraries because I grew up in 3rd world countries...I guess we didn't have libraries. My mom used to go out and BUY books for me to read.
Thanks for your great post.

angela said...

You've definitely struck a chord with this post.
My first memories are of the library, going as a small child with my father. My mother taught me to read long before school.
I read with interest your comment on local budgets. I use the library to connect to the internet when staying with my mother and even at 9am it's busy and this is just a branch library..

angela said...

I just wanted to add a PS.
I wonder if in these difficult economic times libraries might be more used. Books after all are expensive.

Unknown said...

I love the Cicero quote.
Maybe the Luddite Librarian just needs an gentle hand to remind him that even books have improved with technology. We know longer use clay tablets.

lettuce said...

this is a lovely post

my childhood memories of libraries especially involve my mother

I like the quotes

and the one about Universities - ha! would that it were so these days

Mrsupole said...

I had never thought about keeping my library cards over the years. I have saved the cards from my daughters when they were young and I would take them to our city library.

Funny about being locked up in the library and everyone going home. That happened to me and my daughters at their pediatrican's office. Not once but twice, and we were in the same room each time. Very weird experience. Thank goodness they only closed the office for dinner hour and came back an hour later. They stayed opened late night, twice a week, for the working parents. I wonder who else they had done this to.

Great post and story. Libraries are a place of wonder.

Linda said...

No library for me here and I really do miss it. I do haunt bookstores though.

Avid Reader said...

Tut Tut, are you up for starting on Out... Let me know. Can we discuss it the last weekend of March?
27, 28 29th ...? That gives people a chance to locate the book.

tony said...

Yes! Libraries are so Tactile& physical! The Smells, Yes!!!!
Like you, i love visiting out of town libraries.........One of the first places to seek out in a strange City.
I must say, a library open on a Sunday would never be found in England.....Although,now you mention it,I cant imagine why?