Monday, April 18, 2011

I Am a Graduate of the Public Library

A few weeks back, Peter Sieruta at Collecting Children's Books wrote that children's authors Vera and Bill Cleaver considered themselves to be graduates of the public library.

Bumper sticker: Make your next stop the library
I am a graduate of the public library as well, even though I have degrees from other institutions. The library was my first.

My mother took us to our small-town library frequently when we were young. It's a charming, yellow-brick, red-tile-roofed building with dark-stained pillars between the bookcases and old windows whose glass is irregular and rippled. A twisting staircase leads to the asbestos-tiled children's room in the cool basement. This is the place where I found Dr. Seuss and later juvenile novels that haunt my thoughts to this day.

When we got to be teenagers, my mom paid for borrowing privileges at the libraries of two larger towns about 20 miles away. They had more selection, and my sisters and I took advantage of them both. (My mother did too!)

I took out books about house design, as well as lots of fiction. This is where I found M.E. Kerr, Sylvia Louise Engdahl, Ursula LeGuin, and so many other authors I love to this day. After reading LeGuin's Earthsea trilogy, I was browsing through the juvenile novels one day and saw beside the trilogy a new book by LeGuin called The Dispossessed. Misshelved from the adult section it may have been, but it soon became one of my all-time favorite books.

Thanks to Peter for making me think about this. Are you a graduate of your public library?

1 comment:

Unemployed Dragon said...

Having moved around the country as I grew up, my favorite library was in the St. Louis County Public Library. I remember the bookmobile parked next to the fire station in the suburb where we lived and being fascinated by all these books in this trailer, as well as going to movies on Saturday afternoons at the main library as well. Count me among the public library graduates as well.