I love going to our local library. This has been true since I was a kid and devoured every Nancy
Drew book on the shelf. I would be transported into her world where she had ‘chums’ and a
‘roadster’—I had friends and no car. Those were the days when no one would question what
happened to her mother and Nancy didn’t seem to be undergoing analysis over the loss of
maternal support. And George was a girl. (Who knows what kind of reviews that would
engender today but it the 50’s, no such words were written.) Later, I moved on to read The
Count of Monte Cristo, fell in love with the tale of Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy and never quite
reconciled the description of Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind with the dashing Clark Gable.
These heroes and heroines were all quite real to me, with introductions made by way of a group
of women who cared about books and learning, known as the librarians.
Though I can confess to having a Kindle and am thankful for the technology each and every
time I travel, I still want to hold a book in my hand. I love the feel, the look and the unending
sense of satisfaction I feel when I close the cover and the story is completed. The library for a
reader is like a candy store to the sugar addict: where do I begin, what will I like, what should I
take. You only need a card to take these treasures home, not to keep but to borrow—in the best
sense of the word. It is only the book that is borrowed, what you learned, where you were
transported, how you laughed or cried are yours to keep.
My current hometown library is a far cry from what I assume Thomas Bodley had in mind that
fateful day in Oxford when he founded the Bodleian Library to the “whole republic of the
learned”. We have a children’s center where come the spring baby chicks are being hatched.
There are regular lectures spanning topics on what’s happening in the world to how to learn to
knit. There are tables for tutoring, nooks for studying and comfortable chairs for reading the
daily papers and monthly magazines. In keeping with the modern age, there are computers and
data bases galore. Bodley would be gum-smacked.
When I walk in, sometimes with a mission, sometimes with a ‘let me explore’ attitude, I have a
sense of familiarity. Today I may write books but for years I have read them. This is their home.
They welcome me back.