"I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."
I can think of no better gift than a book. Over the years, I've spent seemingly endless hours in libraries, which are truly a gift to all of us. The following is a guest blog I wrote for The Picnic Basket during National Library Week 2010 in honor of my hometown library in LeRoy, New York.
As with the mysterious libraries of Borges' fiction, my hometown library still haunts my dreams: an elegant structure of shadowy interiors, labyrinthine halls and spiral staircases. There was an upstairs room that in my dreams was always hard to find, its windows painted shut, shelves overflowing with odd fragile books. For me, the library was a world unlike any other. At the front desk, whispery librarians stamped our library cards. Downstairs was the Children's Room, where we sat in circles and stories were read. Magical times. Out front grew an old copper beech with low branches: a perfect climbing tree where I could sit and read the afternoons away, fantasies like Edward Eager's delightful time-travel books.
A few summers ago I visited my home town and noticed a book sale on the library's front lawn. There, among the jumble of discarded books, I spotted three familiar covers: Edgard Eager's "Knight's Castle," "The Time Garden," and "Magic by the Lake." I examined each book, breathing in the smell of moldy pages, marveling at N. M. Bodecker's light-hearted illustrations. These books, I knew, were the same ones I'd checked out of the library and read all those years ago. I paid for them and walked off smiling, the books clasped to my chest. To be reunited with them was, well, paradise.