I responded to a post on tumblr about getting to know your tumblarians (that’s tumblr librarians, if you didn’t know ;D) where the prompt was “What are your dearest library memories?”
“LIBRARY MEMORIES?!” I cried, “I have tons of those!” So I proceeded to write the longest text post I’ve ever written on tumblr. And then I thought, well, I should definitely share this with everyone who DOESN’T follow me on tumblr too, right? So here I go.
I grew up in libraries. My parents read to me from the time I was born. I’m told I was reading on my own by the time I was three. It seems obvious now that this would be the field I’d end up in, but I really only settled on librarianship as a career within the last two or three years.
I went to a small Catholic school K-8, and I was in an “advanced readers” group in first grade. We read books that other kids in our grade weren’t ready for yet, and I loved it. The librarian at my school was a woman named Sheila Beaupre and she was my idol. She made reading and learning so much fun, and COOL. We did awesome crafts and presentations about books we were reading, and I was NEVER made to feel bad or weird for loving to read or being a “bookworm” in that space. I won the school spelling bee. I read every book on Greek mythology I could get my hands on. I read Jane Eyre in seventh grade and didn’t get it. My reading level was soon higher than any books we had there but I LOVED that library.
Every week during the summer, my mom would take my sisters and me to our local public library. It was tucked at the end of a road behind the Skate Station. I could navigate there with my eyes closed. I loved mysteries and went through a serious mystery book phase, during which I think I read every single Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys book in the children’s section (after I grew out of the Encyclopedia Brown books). I soon moved on to Agatha Christie for mysteries, and then Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, and Tolkien for fantasy. I saw a picture of my little old library (the building is actually younger than I am, by about a year!) recently and all those old memories came flooding back. I can still see the layout in my head, where the story hour room was, the children’s section in the back with the primary colors and low-slung chairs, the more austere adult area with the amazing old-book smell. My old library card. I haven’t been back in years but that’s still MY library, y’know? I LOVED that library.
Almost every summer growing up, we’d go visit my grandparents in Iowa for a few weeks. They lived in a small university town, much smaller than our hometown, and we would ride bikes to the library or the bandshell, go play in the creek down by the park, or swim at the high school pool. My abuela was a writer. I volunteered at the library a couple summers in a row, once as a helper for the children’s summer programming, where we read books and watched movies and made unicorn horns out of construction paper; and once as a shelver for the adult fiction collection. I was in charge of the science fiction and fantasy section and it was HEAVEN. It was during these years I think that I started reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. It was also during these two summers that I developed a huge crush on a boy named Nathan who volunteered at the library too. Nothing ever came of it because I was WAY too shy and he was a couple years older, but I remember him being very cute, and he had a PONYTAIL (gasp!). I LOVED that library!
In high school, I was in band, and I was not a “cool” band kid, I was an awkward band kid. I spent more than one morning in the school library with the chess club, and when Orson Scott Card came to visit, I was one of the 30 or so kids that showed up. At that time I was exploring being a writer, and getting to speak with Mr. Card was an incredible experience. (I don’t agree with very many of the things he says now, but I loved his books then.) I was the editor of our band’s football game-day newsletter, and I took more pride in that than I probably should have. I was appointed the Music Librarian for the band for my junior and senior years, and I whipped that little music library into SHAPE, let me tell you. I got a taste of information organization then, but it still didn’t click that librarianship was my destiny. I spent hours in that little storage closet-turned-library, organizing sheet music by part, composer, and title. It was mine, and I LOVED that library.
I went to college in a different city than my hometown, and it was hard to adjust. College was hard; there were so many distractions and people to meet and things to do that I didn’t do as well as I most likely should have. I had never struggled with school before, and I didn’t understand why I was struggling now. I made some…probably-not-for-the-best life choices, mostly involving a boy, and it took me much longer than perhaps it should have to get my undergraduate degree. The bright spot at my university, though, was the libraries. There are at least a dozen of them, and Library West was my kingdom. It had just been renovated when I started school there, and they had installed MOVING BOOKSHELVES in the lower floors. I had never seen the like and I thought they were MAGICAL. (I met someone recently who tested the “the shelves will stop if they detect movement” theory. “Did you almost die?” I asked. “I almost died,” he replied, laughing. Don’t get stuck in the stacks, kids!) Library East was a special collections building, and they had a little bookstore for used books and records (where I wanted to work, forever) as well as a constantly changing and engaging display on the second floor. I would stop in on my way across campus if I wasn’t in a hurry, and just smell the history. I think they did rebinding and mends in there, too. I LOVED that library.
After I got my degree in December of 2010, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I was kind of tired of linguistics, and my specialization, historical linguistics, wasn’t exactly looking to be the most lucrative option (thank god for that Classics minor, right? Not.) I decided that I wanted to look into archival work and preservation, since I liked old books so much and I kind of just want to be around them. I had a few friends who’d gone to library school and that sounded kind of awesome too. So I became a volunteer at my city’s downtown public library, working a few hours a couple days a week, and I got to know the place, and the people. About seven months later I got a job there, as a library page. It was a DREAM COME TRUE. Shelving and straightening books all day long, helping people find books and movies and music and everything they could hope for, having patrons look at me like a miracle-worker every time I pulled exactly what they were looking for…it was wonderful. I kept working hard, and I got two promotions within my first 10 months. I’ve been here about two years now, if you include my volunteer service, and every day is wonderful. Sure you have the regular troublemakers, but you also have the patrons who are so grateful when you give them the information they’ve been searching for…it makes every day worth it. Maybe I’m still idealistic, and maybe it’s not my life goal, but public librarianship is completely worth it, and I LOVE MY LIBRARY!
In conclusion, libraries have been with me since I was a wee little Bookaneer, and thinking about them gives me a lot of emotions. I definitely teared up more than once while writing this up, and I hope you enjoyed it! What are your dearest library memories?
Keep bookaneering, mates!