The first squabble/dispute/fight of 2010 drove me out of the house this morning. I ended up at the big library downtown. Our library is the best! I know that because it has been voted best library in the country year after year.
As I walked in, past the coffee shop, I saw a big railroad crossing sign blinking red from left to right. Then inside the main entrance was a huge train display. Parents and young children clustered around it. Kids darted around trying to see where the train disappeared into the "snow-covered" mountains and then they gasped in amazement to see it come around again.
It reminded me of the devotion I had to the library as a kid, and the thousands of enthralling trips my kids and I made to the library. Since I was little, the library has always been one of my favorite places.
When I was growing up, my mom would take us to the library once a week. One of those imposing buildings for a small town, we would walk up the big marble steps to the front door that opened in the adult section. I would take a left and run down to the children's section that was kept in the basement. Sometimes we'd go for story hours, but mostly I remember hauling home a huge stack of books that I would read that afternoon. I would have to wait for the following week to return the books and get more.
I wanted my kids to love the library as much as I do. I'm not sure if they do, although Grace does love reading. When we moved to Columbus as homeschoolers, the first thing I checked into was the library. To homeschoolers, a first-class library is the equivalent of the best schools. We used the libraries as gathering places, but we spent many hours wandering the stacks, finding books on Egyptian hieroglyphs, the Cherokee language, Vikings, the Crusades, the gold rush... Well, any subject that interested us, we managed to find in books at the library.
Now Ohio is making cuts to its library system and I worry about its future. What would life be without libraries? Just today while I was there I found some French movies that were mentioned in Debra Ollivier's new book What French Women Know. I got a couple of books to read and lucked into finding Eat, Pray, Love on dvd so I can listen to it in the car.
My kids turn to it for "Homework Help" when they are stumped, and thousands of jobless people go there for help with resumes or to search for jobs online.
My friend Tracie is a librarian. This year during Christmas dinner a sister-in-law commented that she didn't see the point of public libraries. People were quick to set her straight while steam poured from Tracie's ears. But I wonder how many people share the feelings of this woman who doesn't see the point... the point of an oasis of books that can take us far away or bring the whole world, past and present, close to us.
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