Thursday, March 29, 2012

Library Books: A Love Story

One thing you may or may not know about me is that I am a book worm: I DEVOUR books. I have been this way since I can remember. I come by it genetically as my mom, dad and brother were always reading as well. My mom and dad read to me frequently. My mom tells a story of me when I was very young (maybe 2 or 3?) and she found me tugging the huge dictionary behind me with frustration. She asked me what was wrong and I wailed, "I want to learn to reeeeeeaaad!" Unable to wait, I must have moved on to making my own. My dad fondly remembers me "writing" stories through illustration. I would bring my papers to him and tell him the story and he would write the text on the back for me.

I have a distinct memory of going to the library with my dad when I was maybe 5 or 6. This was the "old" library in town, it shared a tan brick building with the police department and therefore, always had several police cruisers in the parking lot. Somehow in my young mind, this served to impress upon me the importance of books and reading: a treasure so valued that it was located next to the police so that they could better protect it for all of us! I still have a brief image in my mind of the double doors, the 3 steps down, the central check out desk and the kids section just behind and to the left. The bookcases were maybe 2 or 3 shelves only, of light blonde wood, and stuffed with books. I would pick so many books to check out that my dad would have to help me carry them...the stack was usually about 2/3 of my height!

photo by K.B. Dixon, source
This love affair continued over the years as my check-out stacks grew slightly smaller and the books themselves thicker. Our town had built a beautiful new brick building with lots of windows that was much larger than the old space. (I can't establish when the library was built, but the closest I can place it is 1987-1989.) The library was one of my sanctuaries during the tumultuous teen years. I found peace amidst the shelves. I hid there to do my physics homework when my mom insisted on filling the house with jarring ragtime music on the piano that reached every nook. (And I tested the attic, basement, and back bathroom!) Dewey and his system gave an order to my chaos for a few brief moments in my world and I would wander the stacks, breathing in that distinct library book perfume.

I realized in college that one reason I was oddly strong for being a non-athlete was thanks to reading. During summers in high school, I would walk down this steep hill and the 10-15 blocks to the (new) library. I would have to bring a bag or backpack as I would check out my usual quantity of 10+ books and needed help hauling them back. I weighed those bags on at least one occasion to discover I was lugging more than 30 pounds.

Sadly, college managed to temporarily break us up as all those textbooks and required reading and the general stress of this time in my life left me mentally burned out. I would only read complete fluff during the summer, namely The Cat Who series. My university's library didn't evoke the same sense of peace. Trying to study there, I found the noise of other students jarring, the vibrations and sounds from the central air system defocused me or put me to sleep.

After college, other than the new Harry Potter books as they came out, I read very little and seemed to have amnesia regarding the library's existence. I don't think I stepped foot in a library between 2003 and 2006. Then entered J into my life. He not only breathed new air into my world, but he reminded me of the joys of the public library. When I moved to Ballard, I started using visiting the library regularly again. While I loved the design of the building (particularly the living roof), the venting for the underground parking garage causes half of it to have a loud and distracting humming, and in one corner it even causes vibrations. Our move to Magnolia brought me back in contact with a library I could love. It was quite small, smaller even than the library protected by the police during my childhood. But it felt like the Pacific Northwest, it had no annoying buzzing, and it felt like neighborhood and community. This library was the perfect distance from our apartment and I regularly used it as an excuse to go for a walk, a nice destination where I could rest and read the periodicals and use the bathroom before returning home.

Left: Ballard Library's Living Roof, source
Right: Magnolia Library, source
Now we've moved again and I have a new library to learn. I'll admit that the joys and burdens and learning that comes with new home ownership has left me with little contact with this new location yet. It actually spans the river, you can stand on its front side walk and lean over the edge to watch the salmon spawning (an amazing view we discovered last season) in the Cedar River. I've only been inside to pick up holds, but I think I like it. It has it's own aura and personality that I have yet to get to know, but sadly, I might lose that opportunity soon as the city is in the midst of major discussion/plans to build a new library building.
Renton Public Library source

1 comment:

  1. Sadly all the libraries I've been to recently have people who have no regard for quiet time. Loud laughter, phone conversations and munching on snacks make it hard to concentrate. Thankfully I have been motivated recently to read books more often, partly due to my Seattle friends so yay!