“Without libraries what have we? We have no past and no future.”
— Ray Bradbury
In my defense, I’ve been busy. Going to the library used to be a key part of my week. My life really. Our lives.
Born to be a bookworm from a family of readers, I grew up enjoying the largesse of a fantastic local library. (Thank you, Mr. Carnegie).
Later, I grew up and away from my hometown. Fortunately, when we moved, I discovered a fabulous small town library that brought the world of print and early internet to our own secluded corner of the world.
Our children grew up there. They took toddling steps along the soft carpeting (when our own home was often renovation torn and riddled with dust and errant nails).
They went to story time, checked out bags of books every week, and lived to spin the giant globe that was kept in the back by the fireplace.
We made semi-panicked evening runs for last-minute resources for forgotten book reports. We even crashed to take great homecoming photos on a rainy day (bless them).
To say we loved our library is almost an understatement. We flat out adored it.
Then the kids grew up. Life became busier. Digital downloads were just so … easy.
Slowly, almost without realizing it, we began to leave the library behind. Still, I always had warm thoughts.
Now college textbooks and social media have overshadowed the reading of printed materials. For our children, the local library has been replaced by the university library.
The other day it occurred to me that my library card hadn’t been used in a while. It was probably expired? I had a few minutes to wile away in town, so I stopped in our old stomping grounds.
It was like being greeted by old friends. The same wonderful smells of rich paper, binding glue, and what quiet would smell like.
Crisp and cool I think. It was immediately like stepping back in time.
I instinctively glanced down to check my children who, as grown college students, were not with me.
Still, the welcome was wonderfully friendly. I’m pretty sure librarians have to have minds like a steel trap if only to greet all the patrons so warmly, bless their hearts.
Even those scofflaws who drop out of sight for years.
I was able to quickly renew my library card. It’s helpful that I haven’t changed a single thing in over two decades. Even my cell phone number is from forever ago.
I can’t ever move. I don’t want to learn new numbers. The ever friendly librarian handed me my updated card and then turned back to the screen, smiled sheepishly, and said “you have a fine.”
Yes, indeed I owed $2.83 for five years. I quickly paid my debt to library society.
You have to respect any organization that allows you to pay off your <$3 in 60 months. They should have charged me interest, at the very least.
As my best friend said, wryly, “good, now they can take down your most wanted poster.”
I think I’m now cleared for political office as well.
Granted I’m in good company. It was revealed that none other than George Washington himself failed to return a borrowed copy of Emer de Vattel’s, Law of Nations, that he checked out from New York Society Library Oct. 5, 1789.
Even at a fine of pennies per day, that’s going to add up. News reports are that they ended up accepting a replacement book in lieu of the over $300,000 fine owed. Libraries are always so nice like that.
In my case, $2.83 was a small price to pay for all the library has done for and with us. We have enjoyed over two decades (and two entire childhoods) of adventure, enjoyment, and friendly faces who have welcomed us — and our scofflaw ways.
Libraries are truly the heart of our society. Young or old, rich or poor. Literary or illiterate. They welcome us all with open arms — and pages.
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