Saturday, October 14, 2017

My Top Ten Favorite Library Moments

Just thinking of the word "library" brings up an emotional array of memories for me, from childhood to motherhood to author-hood. I wouldn't be surprised if many of us feel similarly; there's something unforgettable about visiting a place filled with books that can't help but anchor itself deep in our minds. As I pondered a specific library-oriented subject to write about, I realized I couldn't choose just one. So here are my Top Ten Favorite Library Moments!

10. The building. As a kid, my local public library seemed enormous. Thousands of books, arranged in some sort of mysterious order, on every subject imaginable. It was like an actual, real life Internet. (Years before the real Internet, of course. Psst. It was better.) There were nooks and crannies, comfy armchairs, stools to reach the highest shelves, and the delicious smell of paper permeating the air.

9. Free books. When I turned ten, I was allowed to ride my bike to the library. The basket on the front of my bike had a real purpose at last. I could fill it with FREE BOOKS and ride home, keeping them in my room for three whole weeks. And then I could come back again for MORE FREE BOOKS. I couldn't get over that there wasn't a limit on the free part. It didn't expire!

8. A fine. Although many libraries have done away with this practice, back in the day, fines were a thing. Once, a book got misplaced in my house and I returned it late, shamefully forking over my ten cents. I'll tell you this: I never returned a book late again.

7. The card. Getting my first library card in second grade made me feel like I'd gotten my own credit card or a driver's license. It might have been one of the first times I signed my full name. I carried it proudly in my Barbie wallet. It had power (see #9).

6. The bookmobile. Equally as good as the library building itself but in a different way, I loved climbing the steps of this giant bus that drove around with books inside. There was a bookmobile stop a few blocks from my house and it came on Friday afternoons. If I was amazed at how many books could fit into the library, I was stunned at how many books could fit into a bus, too.

5. Studying. The library became a different kind of respite for me during college. The quiet, the solitude, a place where I could get away from the noise and chatter of a dorm or sorority house. For freshman year finals, my favorite spot at UW-Madison was in the Memorial Library -- something lovingly called "the cages." These were honestly jail-like cells where you shut out the distractions and studied to your heart's content.

4. Librarian friends. Two of my best friends from college are librarians. One works in a public library, and the other, a school library. Whenever I stop in to visit, I get to live vicariously in their worlds.

3. Story time. Becoming a mom brought a new perspective to going to the library. I could experience everything again through the eyes of my kids. I loved story time -- sitting cross-legged on the floor with one of them in my lap, listening to the soothing, lyrical words of Come Along Daisy, There's an Alligator Under my Bed, or Bunny Cakes.

2. Events. I've held mother-daughter book club meetings at my library, taken my kids to classes and events, and gone to many functions there myself. And they all are -- here's that amazing word again -- FREE.

1. Author visits. Perhaps the ultimate joy after a lifetime of loving libraries is being able to visit them as an author. I've loved every minute of speaking to book clubs, encouraging writers at NaNoWriMo, and participating in panel discussions. Whenever I walk into a library, I still feel that same rush of amazement (see #10).


Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of Ethan Marcus Stands Up (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin 2017), The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days (Penguin Random House 2014), and Calli Be Gold (Penguin Random House 2011). Find her at micheleweberhurwitz.com

4 comments:

  1. I'd add one more to your list Michele - the musty, dusty smell of all those wonderful books at MY library growing up. The smell of comfort, old friends, and adventures between the covers of undiscovered books.

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  2. My first library experience was a bookmobile, too, when I was three or four, living in Jackson Heights, Queens. Thanks for stirring that sweet memory.

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