"I wish we could just stay here all night. Next time we come, can we stay all night?"
My daughter said that the other day as we made our way to the front desk of the Evanston Public Library to check out our books.
Evanston has a fantastic library with a really nice kid's section. It has two different play areas and a baby area and there are craft projects available all the time and, most importantly, there are some fantastic librarians. Quality librarians are super important, you guys.
When I was a kid, I don't recall any librarians being especially nice to me. I thought of librarians as grumpy old ladies who got angry if you made noise.
As an adult, however, I am friends with a few librarians and, surprisingly, none of them are old or grumpy when we hang out (though I've never much seen them on the job). And there's the folks in the kid's section at the Evanston Public Library where it is always a little more noisy and boisterous than one would expect a library to be. And where they hold a summer reading program that encourages kids to read all summer long and, at the end, if they fill in all their times, they get to choose a free book to take home and keep. Bunny loves this program. She takes it very seriously and even insists that she do all the required reading herself - even though she could fairly count the 15 to 20 minutes I spend reading to them each night, Bunny will only credit herself for reading she does on her own. She'll still very easily earn that book.
When Pip goes to the library, it is hard to keep him on task. We have trouble choosing books because if I suggest one, he says "No" and if I ask him to look for one for himself, he feels too overwhelmed. Or he chooses a comic book that can't be checked out.
One day, I took Pip by the hand and went up to the front desk and asked the librarian for help. It took a little extra courage on both our parts. A really warm, friendly lady asked Pip a bunch of questions, said she knew just what to look for, and returned with a stack of books that made his eyes light up. I could never have done that but she really knew her stuff.
And it wasn't that she was just helpful...and very happy about being helpful, she thanked us because she said that helping someone find the right book was her favorite thing to do. And it was like a light switch for me. Those people are there to do a whole lot more than just say, "SHHHHHHHHHH!" I really wish someone had explained that to the librarian at my elementary school. It's amazing how long those first impressions will hang on and color the way you see the world, huh? So, determined to make sure that my kids never felt that way about librarians or, by extension, libraries, or, by further extension, books, I make sure that we always ask for help and recommendations. We have two especially favorite librarians that we always look for but any of them are kind and helpful.
Anyway, I guess that's why I can't quite get one of them out of my head this week. Because, upon entering with Bunny the other day, we were surprised to find a large, hand-made memorial to her in the main entrance to the library.
She was only 10 years older than I am - killed in an accident on her way to work at the beginning of the month.
I kinda wish I'd told her that she changed the way I thought about librarians...and that the books she picked for Pip were always spot-on.
I wish I'd told her that she did a great job with the kindergarten library tour I chaperoned. I marveled at her patience that day and was pretty grateful that all I had to do was follow along and round up stragglers. She really earned her keep that day. Well, every day, I'm sure.
Here is Gigi with Pip during the kindergarten field trip.
The other evening, Bunny and I had gone to the library to return some things - including a dvd of the movie Bridge to Terabithia. We liked it a lot and decided that when we returned it, we would check out the book.
It's about a poor farm boy with no friends whose life is changed when a new girl shows up and pursues a friendship with him and teaches him to dream and imagine. Together, they create a whole different world where they are braver and stronger and then their newfound bravery and strength helps them be braver and stronger in real life.
One of the main characters dies in an accident. Bunny was very upset. She was angry. And she said that it didn't make any sense for her to die - that it didn't further the story and there was no reason for it. And she wanted to know why it was called Bridge to Terabithia when the bridge isn't even built until after she dies.
I said that I thought the girl was the bridge.
Bunny thought for a while and said that maybe it did make sense for her to die in the story because maybe the boy needed to be able to see that now he could dream and imagine and be strong on his own.
The author wrote the book to help make sense of the death of her young son's best friend.
I've never been able to make much sense of death that comes too soon. And I don't know that the book really succeeds in actually making sense of it - but only because making sense of it is an impossible task. But, if Bunny is right (and she generally is, I've found) I guess there is a lesson in the importance of the legacy you leave behind at any age.
I know that our favorite librarian is survived by a husband and two children. I imagine they know that the legacy she left behind is powerful. I imagine they know that she was a bridge for a bunch of children (and some of us older people, too).
I hope so, anyway.
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