Today I went to the library to do research. Not the on-line research I’ve become used to, but real, honest-to-goodness look on the shelf research. I found 3 great books that I’m going to read – and I have them for 3 weeks. But by driving down to the Main Library I was reminded of why I love the library.
1. There are other people there. I work alone, and web-based research done from my office doesn’t get me out in public. I’m a workaholic too, so I can spend days not leaving the office. I saw all kinds of people at the library. Kids holding fun-looking, colourful picture books as big as their heads. Mom with babies in strollers getting something to read (I never had time to read when the kids were little – what is their secret?) Retired people looking at movies and CDs. And the librarians. Pleasant people who were helpful and gracious to me.
2. The library is quiet and peaceful and the books smell good. When I pulled books from the shelf, and started to flip through them it felt good. The weight of the book, the colourful jackets, the author’s picture on the back. I love books! I suppose if you hate germs you might be thinking about the Sienfield episode where George took the book into the bathroom. But I don’t think about that – I feel I’m the first person to be needing this book.
3. Books next to books. As I found the books I wanted, I couldn’t help but notice the interesting titles on the shelf. Beside, above, below. Lots of interesting topics and authors I would never have found! Books from the ’80s, and before. Classic experts. They all were there and I started to browse. I started to glance through, and speed read chapters – all standing in the aisle. I forgot where I was, that I even owned a cell phone, and was lost in the world of words. And I wasn’t thinking “I guess I should buy this” like I sometimes guiltily do at Chapters. (where you can no longer take unbought books into the coffee shop – so what’s the point).
4. The Dewey Decimal System – I love saying it, and I love looking up books by their numbers on the spines. It’s one of those things I wish I could memorize and know off-by-heart, like the military alphabet code that people use when they are giving out their postal codes.
5. I have fond memories of the library. Growing up in Niagara Falls, I spent a lot of my summer at the public library (the old one on Main Street, and then the new one which was so special when it opened). There was always a summer reading contest, and I also was in it. For every book you read, you got a cardboard cutout picture in the “theme” and you pasted it to the backdrop sheet to make a picture. If you read 20 books in the summer, you got to go to the end of the year ice cream party, watch a movie in the library (no VHS or DVDs at home then remember) and could win a prize. One year the theme was dinosaurs and another time it was ocean creatures. There were recommended books for every age category, some in the theme. I always went one or two grade levels up. The neat part was, you had to explain the book to the librarian before you got the picture cutout. I loved that part. No one at home was interested in hearing about what I read. And I remember thinking (innocently) wow – this librarian has read ALL these books and she knows if I lie and make it up.
One year the library had a writing contest. You had to write an essay on your favourite book – what and why it was. I chose Old Yellar and I wrote about it. I had a dog, a mutt named Ladd at the time, and of course I could really relate to the sadness and the heroism of the dog. I won the contest and the prize was – books! Yeah! The books were two novels about the wild horses that live on an Island. I think I still have them in my hope chest (there’s another topic).
As I left the library, I was wishing I had more time. I think I need to spend more time there. It might be my new hangout.