Ever since I was a little kid, libraries have held a deep fascination, a mystique if you will, with all their books. My elementary school didn’t have an onsite library as schools do nowadays. But we had Bookmobiles.
If you’re not familiar with the term, a Bookmobile was a large, van or bus-like vehicle that was filled with shelves and shelves of books. It went to each neighborhood on certain days of the week and I greeted its arrival the way some kids look forward to the ice cream truck.
Books were always my choice of treat (though I’ve been known to snarf down a chocolate ice cream custard too – I’m no saint after all!) I remember the first books I got from the Bookmobile...Jack London's Call of the Wild and Jack O'Brien's Silver Chief which reigns as my all time favorite wolf-dog story. Then The Black Stallion cantered into my reading and I so wanted a sleek, black, spirited and loyal horse of my own.
When I entered middle school, I counted myself as hugely lucky to find that it boasted a library (two classrooms combined but, hey, it was a library!) I still remember the slightly musty smell of all those books, the sacred hush (enforced by a stern librarian) and the hefty weight as I took new ones each week to read for pleasure and, incidentally, for school work.
When my daughter was three, our local library began a weekly pre-school type program where the librarian (no longer a frighteningly stern figure) would sit down with the toddlers and read them a story while the children got to act out the parts with hand puppets (and they were allowed to take the puppets home each week). I think that early start got her on the road to a love affair with the written word and libraries too. I’m sure it helped her read at a very precocious level throughout her school years (for example, in 6th grade, her reading scores were at college level).
Today’s libraries are often referred to as media centers in our school district. They do much more than just offer books for pleasure or study but, in spite of the advancement, when I think ‘Library’, I still conjure up an image of that old Bookmobile, the simple two-class-room sized school library and the dry, musty smell of paper. I still hear that holy silence broken only by the occasional page turning or of a book being slid back into its proper place on the shelf.
And I count myself lucky to have read all the wonderful tales that filled my early years with dreams and a deep love of the written word.