The Library Book

I grew up in libraries, or at least it feels that way…Throughout my childhood, starting when I was very young, I went there several times a week with my mother. On those visits, my mother and I walked in together but as soon as we passed through the door, we split up and each headed to our favorite section. The library might have been the first place I was ever given autonomy. Even when I was maybe four or five years old, I was allowed to head off on my own. Then, after a while, my mother and I reunited at the checkout counter with our finds. Together we waited as the librarian at the counter pulled out the date card and stamped it with the checkout machine—that giant fist thumping the card with a loud chunk-chunk, printing a crooked due date underneath a score of previous crooked due dates that belonged to other people, other times. Our visits to the library were never long enough for me. The place was so bountiful. I loved wandering around the bookshelves, scanning the spines until something happened to catch my eye. Those visits were dreamy, frictionless interludes that promised I would leave richer than I arrived. It wasn’t like going to a store with my mom, which guaranteed a tug-of-war between what I wanted and what my mother was willing to buy me; in the library I could have anything I wanted. After we checked out, I loved being in the car and having all the books we’d gotten stacked on my lap, pressing me under their solid, warm weight, their Mylar covers sticking a bit to my thighs. It was such a thrill leaving a place with things you hadn’t paid for; such a thrill anticipating the new books we would read. On the ride home, my mom and I talked about the order in which we were going to read our books and how long until they had to be returned, a solemn conversation in which we decided how to pace ourselves through this charmed, evanescent period of grace until the books were due…My mother then always mentioned that if she could have chosen any profession at all, she would have chosen to be a librarian, and the car would grow silent for a moment as we both considered what an amazing thing that would have been…

Decades had passed and I was three thousand miles away. When we stepped in, the thunderbolt of recognition struck me so hard that it made me gasp…I felt like I had been lifted up and whisked back to that time and place, back to the scenario of walking into the library with my mother. Nothing had changed—there was the same soft tsk-tsk-tsk of pencil on paper, and the muffled murmuring from patrons at the tables in the center of the room, and the creak and groan of book carts, and the occasional papery clunk of a book dropped on a desk. The scarred wooden checkout counters, and the librarians’ desks, as big as boats, and the bulletin board with its fluttering, raggedy notices were all the same. The sense of gentle, steady busyness, like water on a rolling boil, was just the same.

~ Susan Orlean, edited from The Library Book (October 15, 2018)


Photo of Susan Orlean by Gaspar Triangle via Orlando Weekly

Comments

  1. This is beautifully penned and SO reminds me of my own childhood! Lovely! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The only thing better than this is living right across the street from the library, which I did one preadolescence summer. I would visit every day and get a brand new set of books to read. Unbelievable riches!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A walk down memory lane…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeanne DeLormier says:

    Love this. Feel the same about libraries- and always took our daughter from when she was a baby. I think she owns more books now than we do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful tale, and we’re right there with her! O, the floor to ceiling windows on a rainy Saturday…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, yes, yes! Trips to the library were special indeed. Every Saturday we headed off to our little town library…a dark, cozy space with cushions in the corner where I would nestle in with a pile of books to peruse…evaluating, planning, dreaming of other worlds. To this day, My pulse still quickens when I walk into a library…

    Liked by 3 people

    • There was a sense of stage business—that churn of activity you can’t hear or see but you feel at a theater in the instant before the curtain rises—of people finding their places and things being set right, before the burst of action begins. The library entrances have been thrown open thousands of times since 1859, the year that a public library first existed in Los Angeles. Yet every time the security guard hollers out that the library has opened, there is a quickening in the air and the feeling that something significant is about to unfold—the play is about to begin…After a moment, the guard clambered off his stool and pushed the door open, letting the buttery light of the California morning spill into the entry. A puff of outside air wafted in and down the hall. Then, in an instant, people poured in—the hoverers, who bolted from their posts in the garden, and the wall-sitters, and the morning fumblers, and the school groups, and the businesspeople, and the parents with strollers heading to story time, and the students, and the homeless, who rushed straight to the bathrooms and then made a beeline to the computer center, and the scholars, and the time-wasters, and the readers, and the curious, and the bored—all clamoring for The Dictionary of Irish Artists or The Hero with a Thousand Faces or a biography of Lincoln or Pizza Today magazine or The Complete Book of Progressive Knitting or photographs of watermelons in the San Fernando Valley taken in the 1960s or Harry Potter—always, Harry Potter—or any one of the millions of books, pamphlets, maps, musical scores, newspapers, and pictures the library holds in store. They were a rivering flow of humanity, a gush.

      ~ Susan Orlean, The Library Book (Simon & Schuster. October 15, 2018)

      Liked by 3 people

  7. OMG! This is me. We moved to city — first it was the bookmobile and then the library — those beautiful wonderlands of books and more books.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’m not in a building nor a bookmobile, but your post has me revisiting my library sojourns. In a few days when I go on my usual library run I am going to slow down and remember

    Thank you David, once again.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. All I have to do is cross my tiny street, walk between two tiny homes and through their backyards, cross an alley and I can enter our library from the back.
    And I like this tiny walk at dusk.
    Especially this time of the year.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m not surprised to find here this amazing mass of booklovers, of library addicts, and even though I only knew libraries by the limited choice of our school library for many years, I LOVE them all – If I’d get a pat on the shoulder for every time I said: Oh if only I could spend the whole weekend locked up in a library, I’d be deformed….
    She describes so beautifully those feelings, smells, evokes fond memories – now for the past 11 years I had to buy my English books because living in France doesn’t mean you get easily English books…..
    The wonders of books, the wonders of your posts, David! 🙂
    Wishing you and your readers the happiest weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. what beautiful memories of one of my favorite places in the world – the library.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Nan Heldenbrand Morrissette says:

    I grew up about a mile from our local library in Maine. Because my father took our car to work, once a week my mother and my 2-year old brother and I walked downhill to our local library. I was about six. Mum pulled Keith in a wagon and I pedaled my little tractor. (It was a long climb back home.)
    I loved being given free rein in the kid book section, although I was expected to keep an eye on my brother. Mum disappeared into fiction, in many ways. I think reading, especially English novels, was her only escape from housewife duties. The librarian was not very nice. If we were ever late retuning books, she made my mother feel so ashamed. Even at my young age, it made me very angry.
    65 years later, I moved into a retirement community in the exact same area. When applying for my card in the same library, Falmouth Memorial, I pointed out that I had gotten my first card in 1954. I wonder how many thousand books I read in between then and now. And still going strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I was privileged to go to the Library with my teacher to help pick out books to take to school, so they would be available to the students, till the teacher had to take them back and replace with stacks and stacks of other books!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I love your post and the wonderful comments. It all makes me smile. And once again I count myself incredibly lucky to be working in a tiny small town library as an assistant. So many days I look around and feel I’m living a dream. Especially when I get to share the love of books and reading with people of all ages. Wonderful post! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Reblogged this on Sherrie's Scriptorium and commented:
    This is wonderful and makes me smile. Thanks again to David Kanigan for this post. The comments are great to. I hope you enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Oww
    growing up in books is not easy life
    It’s so a very beutiful reading
    Thank writter

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Sounds like a fascinating book, and how perfectly it describes that unique sense of anticipation and happiness that only a child who loves books can know!

    Like

  19. Doug Hlousek says:

    The author captured the experience!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. From the libraries at Alexandra, the private libraries in large Estate around the world, the gift to the World of “Carnegie” libraries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_library
    I have been in a Carnegie library in western Montana (Dillion) while on vacation, the Church libraries, hospital libraries, the Law Firm libraries, the Nursing Home libraries, the
    libraries in Universities, High Schools, Grades schools (k-8th), the day care libraries, the preschool the Public libraries, the summer library in Vicki’s parents trailer (neighbors) 🙂 the library outside my childhood bedroom on the bookshelf we children est. and you had to sign the books out! to the collection of books in a baby’s nursery, to all the home libraries and now the Sharing libraries on street corners, nailed to fences, cabinets sitting on posts near the curb…the bookmobile ( which no longer is funded in my town) and the Hollywood Branch Library my Mom took us to all the time were I fell in love with a Series of Books before I could read: Frances – “Bread and Butter for Frances”; “Bedtime for Frances; A Bargain for France”, “A Birthday for Frances”…she was a cute, smart, independent, strong willed little girl Badger.. so many books, so many people who have had their “Lives Enriched” by what Libraries Hold & Lend…I would say a Man is Rich If he owns a book…My daughter loved going to story time at the library..I’ve kept all her books from when she was little…I’ve always given books as gifts to children and I still have a partial drawer of new books waiting to be gifted… https://youtu.be/TO88PRId1No

    Liked by 1 person

  21. ps: libraries are also in prisons…and in the recreation rooms/tents in wars and on military bases

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Our senses hold the truth. This is a wonderful example that takes us all back in time 💕

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Mum got me my first library card before I started school! I remember being so proud to pick out my OWN books!! I still love to read ~ did you hear that the founder of the Little Free Library recently passed away? I love his story; we have one of his free libraries right outside our church ~ https://littlefreelibrary.org/about/ MJ

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I felt extremely nostalgic reading this. The good old days.

    Liked by 1 person

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