A few years ago, for a brief time, I wrote a column for a local newspaper. Today, I’m sharing with you the first of those columns that was published on September 9, 2010 in the Covington-Maple Valley-Black Diamond Reporter.
I’ve had a library card for as long as I can remember. I can still picture the library in the city I grew up in; it was an old brick building set at the edge of a park in the middle of the city.
I found it comforting to be in the library in the winter when the frigid wind blew outside; the blanket of peace inside the library warmed me as I sat on a small plastic chair in the children’s section browsing through books, searching for just the right one to take home.
In the summer months when it was too hot to play outside, the library was a silent refuge from the oppressive summer heat. Countless stories sat on the shelves waiting for me to enter in and allow myself to be transported to another world.
Sometimes, the library came to me in the form of a bookmobile that parked just down the street from where we lived. I always took advantage of the opportunity to stock up on a new stack of books that I could lose myself in for a few hours.
Throughout my life, whenever I wanted to learn about something new, I went to the library. I learned to quilt by reading library books; I learned about my Mennonite heritage by reading library books; I learned how to take care of family pets by reading library books; I learned what it meant to have faith by reading library books.
I started taking my children to the library when they were infants, wanting to instill my love of books and libraries in them at the earliest possible age. They grew up going to the library and quickly learned to appreciate the value of a book. Now, I am pleased to see my children passing on their love of books and reading to their own children.
When my husband and I moved to the Pacific Northwest three years ago I stopped going to the library. I got used to going to a different grocery store and a different hair stylist, but somehow I neglected to connect with a new library. I started buying my books online or from department store chains, but every time I drove past the library I reminded myself that I needed to sign up for a library card. I just never seemed to get around to doing it.
As I was on my way home this afternoon, something prompted me to turn into the parking lot of the Covington library. As I walked through the tree-lined courtyard toward the glass doors of the library, I wondered what sort of library I might find inside. Would this new library have the same allure that the libraries of my past had held for me?
As soon as I entered the unfamiliar, yet somehow still familiar, library I started to feel at home. I was greeted by a smiling face at the information desk and within a few minutes I had a brand new library card.
With my card in hand, I strolled through the library familiarizing myself with where everything was. There was the children’s section, magazines and books on tape, shelf-after-shelf of fiction and literature, and there behind the rows of computers was the non-fiction section I had unconsciously been looking for.
The familiar Dewey Decimal numbers posted on the ends of the shelves directed me to the sections I once spent so much time browsing through. My body remembered the library-posture of tilting my head to the right to read the titles on the spines of the books; my mind recalled the hours spent in the library browsing, reading, and forgetting about everything else except the books.
I checked out three books from section 305 (They have self-checkout now!), and as I left the library with my books in my arms, my walk seemed a little bouncier, and I seemed to breathe a little easier.
Having obtained a library card and checked out my first batch of books, I guess I can say that I am officially planted here for now.
I guess I’m home.