Here's what I remember about libraries from my childhood:
#1: Kindergarten: I was writing a thank-you card and, because it was the library, whispering to my teacher that I needed help spelling "sincerely." When she laughed, I felt kind of silly. She spelled: "S-E-X-I-L-Y" and, though I didn't know what that word meant, I did realize it was not the proper spelling of "sincerely" and ignored her. She, clearly, was the silly one. Probably, there were books around.
#2: 5th Grade. I had a HUGE crush on Nathan Something-or-other (Long?). For science, an inflatable planetarium was erected in the library, where I spent my time trying to scootch ever closer to Nathan, whom I'd identified in my diary as my "First-Ever REAL boyfriend" in the hopes of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Probably, there were books here, too.
#3: 8th Grade. School pictures, with lights and gray flannel backdrop set up in the library. This was my big reveal, as I'd just gotten my braces removed. The poofy bangs, however, remained. Probably books here, too.
Though I was an avid reader as a kid (and still think of myself as a reader, though I'm the negligent member of Book Club), libraries weren't only for reading. To be clear, I do have memories of reading in libraries, too, of discovering Zilpha Keatley Snyder's 'The Headless Cupid' on the shelf and devouring it, of doing the same with 'From the Mixed-Up Filed of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.' But libraries were also places where things HAPPENED. Libraries were community centers.
I'd forgotten about this until, recently, as the city considered cuts, our public libraries were threatened. Though S is still too small to really value books (as anything other than a light morning snack, at least), we live where we do in part because of its proximity to Blackstone, full of books, but more full of events, of opportunities for her (and me) to learn new things, meet new people, broaden our horizons in the way books and, yes, libraries help us do.
What I didn't know was that Blackstone is the city's oldest branch. It's been in service for nearly 110 years and, when you think about all the books read and the workshops led, the kids whose worlds expanded, the adults whose minds opened...well, it's pretty powerful stuff. And in light of this, you're probably all crossing your fingers, praying that, after the big budget reveal this week, you'll still be able to take your chitlins to your local branch for some good old-fashioned library fun.
Well good news, folks. It looks like the libraries have been, by and large, spared the dramatic cuts we might all have feared. No closings. Shorter hours for some, but with a conscious effort, it seems, to preserve the times most patronized by the city's wee ones.
So if you find yourself just loathing this 60-degree sunshine and those obnoxiously colorful leaves this weekend, make your way to your local library. And if you see Nathan Something-or-other, tell him I say hello.
Filed under: Hyde Park Places