I come from a family of bibliophiles (and anglophiles, and Italophiles, but those are different posts.) We love books. We have tons of books. Books are not just things that you read and read again, but they are possessions, identity. Books are passed down from generation to generation. They tell things about us, who we are or were. From the sublime (complete editions of Shakespeare, gorgeous art catalogs) to the ridiculous-well, actually I don’t actually consider any of these books ridiculous, but maybe more pop culture inspired-The Monty Python Bok, old Agatha Christie and Ray Bradbury paperbacks, children’s books of my brother’s and mine.
I have books of poetry and astronomy and American history that belonged to my dad-all enthusiasms of my his. He was a perpetual student. When I was just a child, he immersed himself, at one time or another, in the works of Virginia Woolf, and the life of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, to name just a few. The rest of the family did as well, as he passed on interesting factoids from his reading along the way. Dad also had an impressive amount of books passed down from his father, primarily on chemistry and biology, but if they couldn’t fill in the gaps of his current enthusiasm, his interests were indulged by visits to the local library. And I always was eager to go along. As Dad scoured shelves for what interested him, I did too, bringing home a stack of books on Greek mythology, or embroidery, or the complete Batman comics.
The other library-related wonder of my childhood was the bookmobile. It used to come to our neighborhood every two weeks and we would run with our stack of books, ready to replace them with new ones. It was amazing how much they could pack into that mobile library. I think I read the entire series of Nancy Drew books, as well as Little Women, Little Men and Jo’s Boys thanks to the bookmobile. It was heartbreaking when we heard that they weren’t going to do it anymore. Budget cuts, I’m sure, but kids don’t understand budget cuts. At least Dad was always willing to drive us to the library, which was quite a few towns away.
For a while, post-college, I lost my going to the library habit. If there was a topic or author I was interested in, I would just buy the book, usually at my favorite buy-or-trade used book store. I think it was good to support the small businessman, but the truth is that I have maybe, too many books. (I know it’s a definite, not a maybe, but I’m in denial, as are my overstuffed bookshelves.) With the fabulous iBooks app on my iPad, I have also lately been able to download (both free and paid-for) books at the touch of a finger. At least only my virtual bookshelves are expanding.
I even work for a library, and constantly highlight its collections in my daily work, but didn’t really use it personally, unless I had some family/genealogical research to do. A wasted opportunity, I know.
But last weekend I got a wild hare to check out the local library. And what a library! Four floors, fairly new, and chock full of books, movies, magazines-you name it. The children’s floor is amazing. It’s got all the right, fun things that of course the kids flock to first-a small room with a dvd-based-on-a-book playing, computers, fun and cozy lounging areas, fun decorations. I want to hang out there all day myself. But it also has a fabulous selection of books-from picture books to young readers to history, local and world-as well as all the classics and young adult titles. I like that it mixes in some of the popular young adult series titles, like the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books, even if there is a larger teen-devoted section on another floor. Someone was really thinking about bridging the age gaps, in both directions, when they set things up.
Between my mother, daughter, and myself we could have walked out with stacks and stacks of books, but we kept it fairly simple-five books to start. I mean, we can go back any time. And I know we will.