Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Book Thoughts: Library Love for Library Appreciation Week

Last week's Weekly Geeks question was about libraries, but I never got my act together to actually type up my thoughts. Now that it's officially Library Appreciation Week, seems like I should put something together!

I have always been a library fan. I still remember getting my first library card in 1st grade - my local library back then was a squat and relatively dark building. Across from the circulation desk was a huuuuuuuuuuge card catalog - it towered over little ol' me. I could hardly sign my name on the little card (I remember being especially irked that the signing space wasn't wide enough to accommodate the bottom tail of the 'g' in my name) but I held on to that thing for dear life.

The children's room used to have this fabulous set up with a faux-carousel in the middle. Instead of horses or whatever, it was filled with benches with paintings of animals on the end of the benches. That thing was awesome. There was also a special display of the latest books that had been featured on Reading Rainbow. At this point I was generally reading at a more advanced level than what was on Reading Rainbow, but I still watched the show because of LeVar Burton. I didn't like Star Trek back in the day (unbelievable, I know), but I knew the host of Reading Rainbow was also on that show my parents liked, so it was like we had a connection!

My next memories of libraries are my school libraries. I felt so stifled in elementary school since the policy was we could only have two books out at a time, and we only could visit the library once a week with our class. Even back then two books weren't going to last me a week, especially since library day was usually on a Friday - more often than not, my two books were finished by Sunday night! (Oh, for the simpler days before we had computers and the internet) And then a magical thing happened: at the end of 5th grade we took a tour of the middle school, which included a trip to the library. This is where I first met Lynn and Cindy, though of course they were just Mrs. Rutan and Mrs. Dobrez back then.

The middle school library was huge. That alone excited me - it was way bigger than the elementary school library, and even bigger than the kid's room at the local library. Plus, all of the books were something that I could read and enjoy, as opposed to the other two libraries that were filled with "babyish" picture books that I didn't care about. And then the kicker: no limit on how many books we could check out! I checked out so many books during middle school that I can still tell you what my library card/student ID number was. I was so excited once to check out a huge stack of books that I actually forgot my oboe (luckily no one ran off with it and I picked it up again in the morning).

I think a lot of reading for pleasure drops off in high school - there are just so many other demands on high schooler's time! Books required for class become more and more complex, and then there are extracurriculars and jobs and boyfriends/girlfriends for the first time...it's a lot to handle. Even I drifted away for a little while, except during the summer. It was before my freshman or sophomore year I think, when a branch of the local library opened just down the street from my house. Here I was introduced to the wonders of interlibrary loan. My house didn't have air conditioning, but the library was a short bike ride away, so I'd ride to the library, pick up the latest stack of books that had come in for me, then spend most of the afternoon crashed on a couch in the air conditioned building. Heaven! Fitting in library time during the school year was a little harder, until Mrs. Dobrez sent word through the high school librarian that she had joined a little committee called BBYA and needed teen readers to join the club. I didn't hesitate before jumping on board!

After being on BBYA for a year or two, I decided or my senior year I wanted to do an internship with Mrs. Dobrez in the new middle school library. I'll be honest - this totally started out as a goof off decision. I was a senior, I was tired of school, I had more than enough credits to graduate, I was pretty much out of English classes I could take, and I had already taken a class at the local college, so I figured that interning in the library would be an easy way to coast through senior year. What I didn't anticipate was it being so fun - I still remember being really excited to book talk a title that Mrs. Dobrez and Mrs. Rutan had booktalked to me years before (Running out of Time), and then being more excited when a bunch of kids really wanted that book after I'd described it! And not only was it fun, but I learned tons. I had never really thought about what librarians do other than check out books, nor did I have the slightest clue about what went on behind the scenes in publishing. While I took a circuitous route to get here, I absolutely believe I wouldn't be trying to get a publishing job today if it hadn't been for that internship.

Now I'm in New York City, where I'm once again lucky enough to have a local library branch just a stone's throw from my apartment. Discovering that library was a life saver for me right after we moved. We were absolutely broke and I didn't have a job yet. The library gave me a place to go so I wouldn't stay in the apartment all day feeling sorry for myself. It's also what enabled me to start this blog - pretty much every review I post here is based on books I've read from the library. I would love to own most of the books I read, but my apartment is small and every time I suggest covering the walls with bookcases I'm shot down, so I continue to satisfy myself with library books (which in all honesty is also healthier on my wallet, even if the stacks of library books drive my husband up a wall sometimes).

So I can honestly say that I owe pretty much all of my adult life to libraries, and to the people who made it possible for me to spend so much time in libraries: my parents, Cindy and Lynn. True fact: Cindy and Lynn came to my wedding last year and the photographer caught them talking to my mom. When I shared my wedding pictures on Facebook, that one was labeled as being of the three most influential women of my life. Now if only I'd gotten married in a library, it would have commemorated all of the most influential women and places.
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