Some of my happiest memories have been associated with libraries. The public library in my hometown of Conway, Arkansas remained in the same location throughout my childhood and until after I had several children of my own. I often walked there after school and spent an hour or two selecting books before walking to my father’s downtown business for a ride home. The librarian was a tiny prudish spinster who kept her eagle eye on the books I checked out. She often called my mother before letting me have certain books because ‘they were too risque for a young girl to read’…books like Zane Grey westerns or Perry Mason detective stories, or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She would certainly be shocked to see what kinds of books are available now, and at the click of a button. Of course my mother always gave permission for me to read those books because she was quite familiar with them having read them herself.
The summer my father was in Alaska, my mother taught herself to drive and we often made the trip to the library. Once while there she sideswiped another car as she was parking and was terrified she’d get hauled off to jail so we quickly left. Sorry mama, I’ve kept your secret for almost sixty years and it’s time to clear my conscience on this matter.
After I was married with children of my own we made regular weekly trips to the same library to load up on books, each child getting so many it was hard to carry them all. They were always as excited as I to visit that establishment. I loved the musty, bookish smell associated with it as well as the numberless stories to choose from…it was just a matter of which world one wished to be transported to for a time. I felt it was a sad day when a new library was built and the old one discarded. The new library was much larger and nicer but with it in place a very important part of my life was gone forever…but the memories fondly linger.
When we moved to the nearby town of Morrilton we lived on the same street as the public library. We couldn’t have planned it any better if we had tried! We frequented that library as much as the previous one but we had to be careful not to get so many books we couldn’t carry them the two blocks home even though we could go there multiple times a week. Each child was very excited to have his own library card when he became old enough, indeed, I don’t believe the excitement was any greater when they acquired their driver’s license. After the children were grown, one of my sons lived with us for a year after he was married and they took their child down the street to the library for story time. So began the love of books for another generation.
I still read as varociously as ever I did but for many years I’ve not been in a public library, reading books instead on my kindle. While I love my kindle, something has been lost in not checking out physical books from a library…or even going to one. So I’m excited to soon be visiting the library in Morrilton once again. My son Chris is now a published author and will be doing a book signing in that very library in conjunction with its centennial celebration, so it will be with two fold excitement that I enter therein. I can imagine it now, I’ll soak up the scholarly atmosphere and the nostalgic smell of old books and ink and do a bit of reminiscing as my son adds his novel to the already crowded bookshelves. Can it get any better than this?