“Doree, you like libraries? What a surprise!” -said no one. Ever.
I don’t remember the first time my mom took me to the Reading Public Library, but I do remember my sense of wonder at the huge old building. The kids’ section was in the basement, and it was a big room filled with books. I loved browsing shelves and reading the backs, trying to find interesting books. I think the limit was 50 books at a time, so I could pretty much check out as many books as I wanted. I had a few favorites, that I would check out over and over, but I also liked finding new friends on the shelves.
Graduating from the kids’ section to the grown-up library was a bittersweet day for me, as it meant I could no longer check out kids’ books. Because the adult area was completely separate from the kids’ section and my parents weren’t really readers, I got to experience the adult section for the first time when I got my adult library card.
The Reading Library was a real library, three or four floors high, with more books than even I could conceive of reading in my lifetime. They had computer stations, back when that was something new. The library was well-lit, not like the dusty old, dimly lit libraries that feature in good horror and fantasy stories. But the lighting didn’t dispel the magic. It still lurked in the stacks, borne out by the mythical numbering system that no one but librarians understood. I remember looking up books in the card catalog, and while I appreciate the efficiency of the digital system, there was something undeniably cool about having the card in the back stamped with a date.
When I moved the first time, I was disappointed by the small library in a modern building, and each time I’ve moved, it’s been the same. I love my current library, and appreciate that I can go online and order books from any of their partner libraries, place “holds” on books, or even borrow something digitally. I can appreciate technology, and still feel nostalgic for that big library in the old stone building.