Library Insider: How Has a Library Touched Your Life?

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.

First things first, let me announce the winner from yesterday’s contest, in which each person who made a comment was entered the win the drawing. The winner is Renee, who sneaked a few minutes from her work in Pasadena to jot a note. I’ll be contacting you for your address, Renee, to receive all that bookish jewelry or the Starbucks card. (I guess we won’t get to see Lance wearing the book earrings.)

To me, this week of posts has felt like Celebrate Library Week. Libraries have affected most of our lives in some way or other.

I remember early in life my mother saw to it that I signed up for a library card. I stood in the entryway of that library, breathing in the scent of the books–and fell in love. I committed myself, in that glorious moment, to read all the books that old, massive building contained…Well, that’s proof that a child is naturally optimistic!

Earlier this week, I asked you to write an essay, poem, short story or whatever came to your creative mind that expressed how a library has touched your life. The reward? A 50% discount on a  subscription to the Library Insider database. We have the results!But first, here’s a sampling of what we received:

Ann Shorey wrote: “I love libraries! Some of my fondest memories are of visiting the large Carnegie library in my hometown of Petaluma, California, for Saturday morning story hour….The second floor mezzanine is where the children’s books were kept. The image of low shelves filled with picture books is imprinted in my memory forever, as are some of the stories that the librarian read to us. Dr. Seuss’s The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, and Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey, spring immediately to mind. I pray I never get too old to enjoy children’s books.”

Larry B. Gray established a great habit as a result of his local library’s summer reading program:

“You had to keep a list or log of every book you read and the author. Since 1964 I have kept a log of all the books I have read and in the last several years have transferred this log to the computer database. I have them listed by title, author, date read, and genre and can sort them by either. It is fun to look back and see what kind of books you liked during different periods of your life.”

Cheryl Malandrinos also has happy memories of her childhood participation in the summer reading program:

“By the end of July my paper was full, and I had read over my quota. It was a proud young girl who waltzed into the library that final week of the program. Grinning from ear to ear, I dropped my books in the return bin and slid my list across the counter for the librarian to look at. She smiled back at me, her blue eyes twinkling through her eyeglasses. “You did a wonderful job,” she said. “Congratulations.” She signed a certificate stating I met my goals, making me an official winner.

“There are times I wish I had kept that certificate. I can’t imagine why my scrapbook that contains dozens of awards I received through my elementary school years is missing that first important step I took toward supporting our library’s Summer Reading Program each year.”

The entry that won was a short story, “The Key,” about a six-year-old girl whose older sister takes her to the library to obtain the youngster’s first library card. Here’s how the story concludes:

She grabbed both our cards off the counter and handed mine to me. I placed it in the back pocket of my denim shorts. She concealed hers in her purse. “Now are you ready?”

I nodded and we stepped back into the stifling heat. She groaned. “We have to walk all the way home.”

I didn’t answer out loud, but I smiled to myself. If I had to, I could walk to the moon and back. I had a whole new world tucked under one arm, and the key to the universe in my back pocket.

Congratulations to Lindsay A. Franklin, who wins a 50% discount on a subscription to Library Insider.

For those who didn’t send in an entry, it’s not too late to tell us what a particular library has meant to you. We’ll look forward to reading your comments below.

20 Responses

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  1. Lance Albury says:

    I didn’t have a meaningful library story to submit, but when I think of the library, my mind always goes back to 10th grade. I was looking through the library catalogue when Joe, a well-known student, approached me and asked if I knew where a particular teacher was. I stretched my arm in front of him and pointed across the room. “She’s over there.”

    The trouble was, Joe was blind! At least we had a good laugh about it.

  2. Congratulations Renee and Lindsay. I enjoyed reading excerpts from these essays. Thank you for including mine.

    I’m excited about Library Insider, and I’m sure it will only get better as time goes on.

  3. Thanks to my sixteen month old daughter, I have been able to recapture the importance of a library in my own life. As an adult, I’m afraid I let the library slip a bit in importance (except of course for the spring and fall book sales).

    However, my daughter has been part of our library’s Books and Babies program since she was four months old, and she spends lots of time in the Children’s Reading Room as well.

    Little kids remind you that the library is not about books; it is about stories, in all their wonderful shapes and forms. The drive to understand stories – to tell them, watch them, understand them, experience them – is so fundamentally human that even tiny children respond.

  4. I grew up in a smallish town in the Ozarks. There wasn’t much to do in town at that time, but we did have an old, converted white house down on Main Street that served as the town LIBRARY! Sadly, the little library I frequented is no more, I’m sure. I believe it’s been bulldozed in the name of progress.

    I still remember it though…myriad rows of books that was a mixture of old and new. I may have lived in a small town, but I traveled thousands of miles beyond it’s tiny borders–all because of the magic of words!

  5. Lori says:

    In my day, there was not that many nursery schools as there are now. However, in the town where I was originally from there was Library School for every four year old. I learned some great songs like “I’m a Little Teapot” and “Knick Knack Paddywack” and listen to some wonderful storie which I can’t remember now. Then, I was allowed to pick out my first book and again I don’t remember the name but all I do remember is that it was about planes.

  6. Judy Gann says:

    Thank you for sharing your library stories. You remind me of why I became a librarian. I plan to send our library’s Youth Services Coordinator the link for today’s blog post. Lindsay, congratulations! You captured the essence of libraries.

    Of course, I have a library story. My grandmother took me to get my first library card when I was about five. I remember standing on tiptoe to check out Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey. My love of reading and words was born.

    Thank you all for participating in the launch of Library Insider this week! I agree with Janet, we celebrated Library Week a few weeks early. I hope you’ll continue to follow Library Insider on Facebook, where you’ll find additional tips for prompting your books in libraries as well as the latest library marketing news.

  7. When my two sons were still small we walked to our nearby library, took out books of their choosing and I did the reading. The library played a large part in their early homeschoolng. They grew up loving to read and my love for books was renewed. The librarian knows me after 20 years. She often inquires about how my writing is coming along. I consider her one of my supporters. I’ve enjoyed this week’s blog.

  8. Janet Grant says:

    These stories are great! Thanks to each of you for sharing why you love libraries. Maril, I appreciate your reminder that libraries aren’t about books but about stories–of every shape and kind.

  9. I’m in shock right now!

  10. I didn’t write it up for the contest, (because it’s actually not that flattering to librarians) but my fondest memory of a library also comes from my childhood. I lived only a few blocks away, so I often walked there by myself. I remember bringing a large stack of books to the counter and handing the librarian my card. She frowned at me and informed me that since my brother (a college student) had so many overdue books, I would not be allowed to check any out, either. Red-faced, I returned them to the cart and ran home in tears. My mom–normally a very shy woman–marched me back to the library and gave the librarian a piece of her mind while I stood there with my jaw hanging open. She informed her that my brother was an adult, however irresponsible, and that it should not reflect on me. I left, with my armload of books and a stronger sense of how much my mother loved me. I also developed an appreciation for the gift that libraries are to our community and how it would feel if that gift were taken away.

  11. Renee says:

    Woo-hoo!!! I should take a break more often:) Thank you so much:):) Can you tell I’m a little excited!

    Congrats to Lindsay too! What a great Friday this is turning out to be…

    …unless it’s an April Fool’s joke? Nah, you all look too nice:)

  12. Sarah Thomas says:

    When I was in grade school in rural WV, we weren’t big enough to have a library in the school, but a bookmobile came each week. That van was my dream car. It had carpet and was lined floor to ceiling with loaded bookshelves. Sigh. The memory of stepping inside the dim, book-scented air is one of my favorites.

    The bookmobile also made a special stop by my great-grandmother’s house before I ever came into the world. She read each and every book–starting at one end and taking them in the order they appeared on the shelves.

    Word got around that someone was damaging the books. It was a great mystery who would tear pages out of Bookmobile books. Until one afternoon my father was sitting on the front porch with grandma while she read. He heard a tearing sound and looked up to see grandma removing a page.

    “There was a bad word on that,” she said and went back to reading. Grandma did have high moral standards.

  13. Two stories. The first is about a mini-library. The bookmobile. Late 50s small-town life. A girl who read under the covers by flashlight (even at the risk of her sisters tattling). The library-on-wheels parked in front of the post office welcomed me into its impossibly crowded, glorious embrace every other Friday afternoon. I can still feel the flutter of excitement I knew then when I stepped from the curb into the world of books.
    Second story–My own kids, years later, learned early that the library was better than DisneyWorld. We mourned a book that 5-year-old Matt brought home and promptly lost. After a few overdue notices and much searching, we reluctantly paid for the library to purchase a new copy for their shelves and other children. In the middle of an ordinary summer day, Matt came tearing down the stairs shouting, “Hal-le-LU-lah! Hal-le-LU-lah!” clutching the once lost library book in his hand. Even now, when our family gets especially excited about something, we respectfully translate the traditional “hallelujah” to “hallelulah,” with an L sound in every syllable.

  14. Larry B Gray says:

    Thanks for the opportunity to share how important reading is in my life and how the bookmobile and my grandmother play such an important role in my love of books.

  15. A few years ago our local library friends published an anthology as a fundraiser. It’s called Open to All; What the Library Means to Me and includes stories by Anne Lamott and Ray Bradbury as well as by lesser known people like me. I believe that book was one of many factors that kept our public library public when selling it to a private company was being considered. I think the book might still be available and some of you other library lovers might enjoy reading it.

  16. I have recovered from the shock enough to say, thank you!! And thanks to everyone for the congrats. Let’s just say this was an unexpected, wonderful start to my Friday. 🙂

  17. Caroline says:

    I actually don’t have a specific story of the first library card or a special moment in a library. This is going to sound cheesy, but every trip to the library was special in my mind, even though we were able to visit one often. I’ve loved books as long as I can remember (with which my mother agrees). Now, thankfully, I already see the beginnings of that love in my little son.

    I do remember – and often still experience – those welcomed feelings of excitement when entering those book-lined buildings. And, I always have a fondness for the library scene in Beauty and the Beast! That’s my dream library! (Anyone else remember that scene?)

    Thanks so much for virtual tour of Library Insider this week!

  18. I love libraries. I would have never been able to write my first historical fiction novels without the help and assistance of a wonderful librarian. She was always willing to help me get those old history books I wanted to read. I liked the older ones because they gave me a feel for the era.

    I’ve got a story from my childhood too. I was an extremely shy child. No one who knows me now believes that, but it was very true. I was afraid to open my mouth to anyone I didn’t know well. But I had a library book that was due and I hadn’t finished it. All I remember about the book is that it was about a horse. I wanted to finish that book so much that when my mother told me I’d have to go into the library alone to renew it while she waited out front in the car that I did it. In order to read the rest of that story I was willing to overcome my shyness for at least a few moments. I still love stories.

  19. My best library memories don’t actually come from when I was a child. As an adult, I can now appreciate all the things our librarians do to encourage kids to come in and take home a book. They host not only story hours and summer reading programs, but Teddy Bear picnics and sing-along nights where they bring in local musicians to entertain the children with fun songs. None of these things are part of their job description. They’re things these ladies have taken the initiative to do on their own, and I greatly admire them for the love of reading and love of community that they’re trying to build in the next generation. I think that if you ran this contest again in 10 years the stories those children will have to tell will bring both smiles and tears.

  20. Lenore Buth says:

    In our tiny Minnesota country school we had no library, no bookmobile, only an ordinary tall green metal cabinet packed with donated books. Once we finished our assignments we were allowed to open those two doors to wonderland. I read every book in it, from the bottom shelf to the top, from Heidi to Hans Brinker, from Anne of Green Gables to Jane Eyer, from Poe’s Raven to Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights.

    With not many choices, I read “beyond my grade level” and picked up word meanings from the context in which they were used. When I got to The End” of the last book, I began rereading my favorites, often understanding them better than the first time.

    Years later every Saturday I offered our four daughters the same reward. If they finished their chores in time we could drive to the red brick library in our Illinois city. Once inside we immediately scattered. An hour or so later we headed back down the wide, welcoming steps, each carrying our chosen stack of books. I delighted in their smiles of anticipation as they chattered about the wonder that awaited them. I knew it well.