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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is Your Next Trip to the Library Long Overdue?

My affection and affinity for the library and my love of reading began when I was around four or five.  I used to wait anxiously for the "Book Mobile" to set up shop along side the playground at the park across the street from my house.  In fact, I am pretty sure I thought that all libraries were rolling school buses with card catalogs, the Dewey Decimal System and shelves stacked with books.  It really was the coolest.

I remember I would ride my bike over and check out as many books as I could carry and load into my white plastic basket.  Then I would pedal home feverishly, spread them out on the carpet in the living room and marvel at the treasures I would have in my possession, well for two weeks at least.  Each one represented a new adventure and I couldn't wait to delve into the pages of every single one.

Some weekend mornings I would wake up at dawn and throw on some warm clothes, usually a robe and socks right over my pajamas and gather up a few of my favorites from that week's selection. Once again I would hop on the old purple Schwinn with the flowered banana seat and sissy handlebars, load up the basket and return to the scene of the crime...well the park that is.  And really, is checking out 15 books at once really a sin?  I hardly think so.

Anyway, I would ride around the park a few times to warm up and then settle in on a bench near the old faded tennis courts, another of my favorite places but we'll save tennis stories for another day.

I would spend about an hour combing through the pages of each book, carefully memorizing the pictures and words and imagine myself flying on a magic carpet, fighting swash-buckling pirates or pretending to be a friends with a talking cat in a giant red and white hat!  Gotta love Dr. Suess. 

Eventually I would start to get cold and a bit hungry so I would make my way back home, usually to find my mom sipping coffee and scanning the newspaper.  I guess she figured that since I was making good use of my time by reading and such, why worry that I had been in a park, alone, at six in the morning...Seriously folks, it was a different time and I can't fault her for that!  And by gosh, I was a rather industrious seven-year-old, if not a tad bit on the odd side.

So as years passed on, my relationship with the library ebbed and flowed like the ocean tides, sometimes quite close and powerful, other times, weak and rather lackluster. 

I checked out a book once, in 1991.  I forgot to return it and got some fairly threatening letters from the Anaheim public library and if I remember correctly, they reported me to a collection agency.  The amount of guilt and embarrassment I felt was a bit ridiculous but I thought I had betrayed the one social institution I could always count on...hey, If you can't do the time, don't do the crime.

So, when I found that book about ten or so years ago, wouldn't you know, I returned it.  Still ashamed of my indiscretion, I dropped it in the box outside.  I can only imagine the librarian's reaction to discovering this hardback, long since forgotten, had been returned to its rightful owner...Ah, the relief I felt, guilt purged and once again, I could rekindle my relationship with my long lost love.  I signed up for my library card in Huntington Beach and haven't looked back.

The HB Central Library proved to be an invaluable asset when I was going to college.  The resources were unlimited and I could find whatever I needed to compile the perfect paper, and I found peace when I needed to study statistics and algebra (not my strongest subjects).  And now as my son navigates through middle school, we find ourselves once again, checking out books on topics ranging from old U.S. presidents to science to fiction.  And once again, we can find whatever we need, right at our fingertips.

Now when I have the time, I love nothing more than to stroll down the aisles looking through subjects ranging from self-help, history, and cooking to the latest works of fiction.  I even put myself on the waiting list for a book today.  It's a trashy novel I can't wait to start!  C'mon, I never said I was some sort of intellectual reader but I am proud to admit that I did read a little bit about Henry the VIII today and toyed with the idea of checking out a book on poems by Robert Frost...but hey, I'm not that highbrow.

One can only aspire...

I love sharing this place with my children and teaching them that the library is consistent and secure.  You can always find answers to your questions, entertain your mind and enlighten your soul. 

Don't get me wrong, I still love to buy books but there is something uniquely special about the library.  Maybe it's the sense of community, maybe it's the ambiance, or maybe it's just a place that induces and provokes fond memories from my childhood and a love of reading and writing, now more than ever. 

So if your relationship with the library has been on hiatus, I think it might be a good time to revisit and old friend.  Start slowly and build it back up, remember you only have to stay committed for three weeks! But beware, don't be late because if you cross her...you will have to pay, in overdue fees that is. 

Good news friends, she doesn't hold a grudge!

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