I can’t remember the first time I stepped through your doors. In fact, my first time probably involved being carried, too young to walk. I didn’t realize then that I was visiting one of my lifetime homes.
What I do remember is visiting you without fail every other Saturday afternoon. Library Saturday, one of the high points of the week. I remember exploring the high stacks of the children’s section, what we might call Middle Grade today. My mom would linger by the new releases section, trying to pick out titles she thought I’d like, while I flung myself into the great sea of books.
Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy and Tacy books, Donald J. Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown books, Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz books. I checked out the first two Lord of the Rings books but not the third, and then nearly died waiting for the next Saturday to get the third…but it was too late, the magic was lost, and I never finished. The Mary Poppins books, getting T.B. White and T.H. White mixed up, and then I discovered E. Nesbit and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books and Zilpha Keatley Snyder (oh, Below the Root).
I unearthed Beauty by Robin McKinley from your shelves, and it became my first long-lasting favorite book. I found the Pierces, Tamora Pierce and Meredith Ann Pierce, and devoured them. And when I needed a sure thing, I’d wander over to the other side of the room and choose a fat collection of fairy tales: one of the colored Fairy books, perhaps, or a collection of Grimm.
And then I graduated to Upstairs where the adult fiction lived, an endless stream of Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffrey and Andre Norton and Victoria Holt.
Some of my happiest hours were spent browsing underneath your roof. I started my own little library at home, but it didn’t matter too much that I couldn’t afford all the books I wanted because I could always visit you and find something new to read that would transport me to a magical place. That would teach me what the world could be, what my place might be in it, and how to live.
And your guardians! The wise folk who spend their days roaming your halls and helping make your knowledge more accessible. They smiled at me when I checked out the maximum twelve books every time. I couldn’t help thinking that by spending so much time there, they were absorbing the essence of the place, a situation I deeply envied. Because who wouldn’t want to spend their time surrounded by books?
Oh, Library, I love you so. You are always there waiting for me, willing to give me the brain food I crave. You, with your multiple locations and quiet reading areas and musty smell and old books that have worn edges and yellowed pages and have been touched by who knows how many pairs of hands. You, who offer knowledge and adventure and magic and possibilities to anyone who enters. You, who played such a large role in who I am today and who I will become tomorrow.
I love you, Library. You will always hold a special place in my heart.
Your admirer, and perhaps even (do I presume too much?) your daughter,