When I was a teenager, I lived across the street from the library. I did homework there, typed most of my college applications on their noisy electric typewriter (10 cents for each 15 minutes, I think), and perused the shelves for hours on end. I’d already developed a taste for books by that age, but there’s no doubt in my mind that my family’s proximity to the library solidified my attachment to books, reading, and libraries, in general.
Now that I’m older, I live in a family fully of bibliophiles. We read to learn Torah. We read for entertainment; we read to learn how to do new things; we read for school assignments. We read because otherwise we’d go into withdrawal and start twitching in a dark room.
I’ve never been well-off enough to pay for my book habit. Even when I lived in DC, where there were several excellent used-book stores to frequent near my house, I couldn’t keep up. I read probably a 100 children’s books a year with my kids, plus somewhere between 50 and 75 to satisfy my own
addiction desires. We often go to the library multiple times a week. I may be a faithful wife to my husband, but my attentions to libraries are promiscuous–I love the L.A. City library closest to us because of its convenience and because I bump into friends there; I love the Beverly Hills Library because of its size and fabulous librarians; I fondly recall both the aforementioned library of my youth and the library at my college from which you could watch herons and egrets if you got bored with your homework; even on vacation, I’ll go to the library in strange towns just to hang out.
You can probably see why the idea of libraries limiting hours or closing due to funding cuts strikes terror in my heart. A year or so ago, I read a couple articles saying they thought libraries would soon be ditching all their print material for e-books. That hasn’t happened yet, but libraries are going to have to change in order to keep themselves relevant in contemporary America. I just read a fascinating article in the N.Y. Times about ways some libraries are evolving, but you can see the changes yourself today when you visit your own library. For example, libraries are offering large numbers of classes and events, particularly designed to engage kids and teens. Newer libraries have a larger amount of computers and often teach courses about maximizing the possibilities of your e-reader. Hours might be cut, but are sometimes adjusted to maximize their convenience to patrons.
Recently, I read a lovely picture book to my children, extolling the wonders and utility of the library. In Our Library, by Eve Bunting, Miss Goose confides to her adorable animal patrons that their library is in danger of closure. The “children” find the very information they need to remedy the problem in the library itself. The solutions adopted by the children may be a little too straightforward, but they are both logical and cute, and the amazingly detailed (and humorous) illustrations really complement the text perfectly.
Wherever your library is, I hope you frequent it and develop a lasting love affair.