Wednesday, November 10, 2010


When I have extra time on my hands, I find myself in public libraries.  Occasionally, the library is new to me, but most of the time we become fast friends very quickly.  When I walk into a library, there is a feeling of welcoming me home.  Familiar scents, sights and sounds greet me, even before I make it to the first book shelf.  Libraries have unique qualities that I could recognize with my eyes closed. 

There's the smell of printed paper,  whether it's the daily newspapers, the crisp magazines in their plastic protective cases or the books waiting to be explored.  No matter what brand, e-readers will never be able to replicate that "new book" smell. 

Running my finger over a page and experiencing the texture of the paper brings the book to life for me.  Some books have pages made of such rough paper that the words almost cut into the surface; while on the other end there are the books with the glossy pages and print to match.  Silky pages bring to mind the water and all that it hides beneath the surface.  My daughter used to only like the "soft" books, as she called them.  Her little fingers would kiss the pages as I read to her.  I got that love of texture.

People who have joined the biblio-lover club bring their own unique qualities to the library experience.  Some people groom themselves daily and come to the library with the freshly-washed scent of clean clothes and bodies; while on the other hand there are people who have already put in a full day's labor and come to the library before finding their showers.  Each person, whether dressed in business casual, beach wear, tube tops and tiaras is welcomed.  Everyone is greeted with a smile and helpful attitude by the people who work in the library.

Excited toddlers and their adult partners find their way to the glass-enclosed activity center and music starts for "mommy and me" time.  Strains of "Hot Potato" seep into the rest of the library which makes me watch the precious little ones following the librarian, who is leading the activity.  In our busy world, it is sweet to see the magic in the simple actions of following the leader in a learning activity. 

Electronic sounds serve as a background to all the workings of the library.  There are books being checked out; anti-theft electronic signals are deactivated with a muted thump; computer keyboards are clicking out hidden messages; printers are spitting out the requested pages nearby; conversations are kept low so as not to disturb other people; phone ringers are cancelled quickly; and overflows from earphones sometimes seep out to the neighbor. 

By the late afternoon, the patrons have changed.  In come the after-schoolers.  Older elementary students scramble to find the perfect book, the computer site with all the fun games or a quiet spot to challenge a friend to a board game.  Some high school students find a corner to help each other with class assignments; while at the same time sitting closer than school personnel would allow.

In the library, there is a feeling of ease; no one is in a hurry; life slows down and people can catch their breath.  It's as if when I enter the library there is a promise of more appreciation for all that is good in the world.  Words are powerful and when I immerse myself in an environment which celebrates them I feel hopeful, relaxed and energized.


  1. What a wonderful blog. You paint such a vivid picture of the amazing world a simple building can hold within.

    After having been gone from college for many years between my Associate's and my Bachelor's, when I returned to town and enrolled in UH-V, I couldn't wait to check out the library once again. It was almost the same as I remembered, save for a few updated things such as carpets, electronic mechanisms you now had to walk through at the entrance and exit, and.....computers. Computers? Well, I suppose that's to be expected. So I walk myself over to the old card catalog and.....? No card catalog? They must have relocated it. So I ask, where did you move the card catalog? The young girl did not know what I was talking about, seriously, so went to go get help. An older lady returned to explain to this hopelessly out of step and out of time patron that all listings were now on computer and assured me it was faster and easier and that I would love it.

    Well, it wasn't and I didn't. But I did get used to it. Still, how I miss that card catalog. How I lamented seeing the neat alphabetizing of book titles, fingering though the thousands of little index cards, the opening and shutting of drawers, each with their own secret universe inside to be revealed to me as I wished. You know, that tactile sensation you speak of.

    How I miss that card catalog!

  2. I was always fascinated by the card catalog with that little rod running through the bottom, keeping all the cards neat and tidy.

    I think it satisfied my OCD tendencies. The neatness was just overwhelming. The orderliness.