Today JB and I went to the library. We haven’t been to the library in many, many years. We read a lot, but somehow have purchased all our reading materials from bookstores or online. When I was at work I would use our school library, but usually I had only a short window of time. But in the last decade, maybe even longer, trips to the public library have been pretty rare. Somehow it seemed there wasn’t enough time. Until today.
When I was a kid, we went to the library all the time. The West Toledo Branch Library, which I frequented as a child, looked like a medieval castle or a chalet. There was something enchanting, magical, sacred about entering its internal space. There were big windows that flooded the interior with light. You could sit there, in the window seats, with your book, soaking up light inside and out. The right half of the library was children’s books, the adult books to the left. I remember my dad letting me wander in the adult section to browse. I felt so grown-up. There were better art books there. There was a fireplace and comfy chairs.
The library was walking distance from our house. After dinner, my dad, sister, brother, and I would often go to take out books. Though we lived so close it never failed that our books were always returned late, especially my dad’s. My mother would sometimes come as well and she would get stacks of mysteries. Sometimes after school we would go to the library and wait until my dad got home from work. I remember the librarian often saying, as we checked out our books, “Please tell your Dad to return his books. They’re all overdue.”
There was this feeling, this smell, this feel about the place. I’m sitting here writing this now and its memory seems so real. The look of the books. Those textured bookclothed-covers with the opaque printed titles and images. The rounded hefty spines. The illustrations. Mrs. Piggly Wiggly, books on dinosaurs, the librarian’s desk, the counter where you checked out books, the stamp the librarian used to put the date on the card when the books were due, and the pocket that held that card. The window seat. The quiet. The browsing. The walk home. The anticipation of the stories inside my checked out books. The calm. The palpable sense there was nothing else to do but read.
Today JB and I updated our library cards, paid some old fines, and casually spent a chunk of time browsing in the public library. It was incredibly refreshing, stimulating, inspiring. The literary temptations were endless. There was a palpable sense that there was nothing else to do but read.