“Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.”
Once upon a time, there was a library. Its white facade was plain, having been home to a church before becoming a passport to so many new worlds, and the inside was small. Walking in, the narrow hallway opened into a room where thousands of books were packed tightly into floor-to-ceiling shelves and a handful of employees bustled around behind the cramped check-out desk. Upstairs was a conference room of sorts, where certificates and prizes would be handed out for participants in the summer reading challenge, and downstairs … downstairs was a little slice of heaven, right here on earth. Bookcases surrounding the perimeter, bookcases running the length of the room, bookcases overflowing with stories about animals, about middle schoolers, about mystery, about magic. Hurrying down the wooden steps to the kids’ room, my smile would stretch from ear-to-ear and my heart would beat with an added thump, already doing a pitter-patter for all the journeys just waiting for me.
That library is where I met Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. Where I went along with the Babysitters Club on all their adventures. Where I learned about guinea pigs before our family welcomed Nibbles, the cutest long haired abyssinian, into our lives. Where I laughed and learned with friends during community nights and the annual carnival. Where I went on a field trip with my fifth grade class to help clean the books before they were transferred to a new, bigger building across the street. Where I fell in love with the sights, sounds, smells, touches – and, most of all, the pure joys – of reading.
It’s been nineteen years now since our local library moved to a new facility. It’s a lovely place, open and airy, calm and relaxing, inspiring and encouraging. When you walk in the front doors now, it’s a wide space. The checkout desk is large and circular, the children’s section is at least twice as big, and there are rows of computers to accompany the shelves of books. There’s a bottom level, where a youth group often meets, and several rooms for events, guest speakers, and more. The ceilings are high, the views from the windows are wonderful, and the chairs are so comfortable you could curl up in one for hours as you get lost in a story. Truly, it’s a fabulous place. But I still miss the old homey one, even after all this time. I miss the arts and crafts days, where we’d make things like makeshift stained glass jars, and sitting in the back while my sister attended story time with the warm, kind librarian whose love for reading emanated clear from her soul. I miss easing books from the shelves and scampering back up the stairs with a towering stack teetering in my arms. And yet, even as I lose myself in nostalgia for what used to be, I’m grateful for what is, for the fact that, even in today’s fast-paced and technology-oriented society, there are still libraries where we can lose ourselves in the worlds. In the words.
Big or small, new or old, the chance to let our imaginations fly free like that is a blessing. I hope we always take advantage of it.