Tuesday, May 19, 2009

History Ex Libris

Yesterday I Stubled Upon this amazing link to gorgeous libraries and it set me thinking about my own history with libraries and their importance in my life. My first library was the Chipley Public Library which was originally in downtown in a white concrete block building. It later moved to the old firehouse where it shared a space with the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. I remember many long days spent as the only person in the young adult room on the second floor of that library. I even saw someone propose in that room. The best thing was I could go anywhere through that room. Not just in this world, but to other worlds and times. For me it was magic.

What followed were a series of serviceable but rather humdrum libraries. A go-see to Agnes Scott College in Atlanta was rewarded with a beautiful library. The next library that was somewhat "mine" was the Medical College of Virginia's which I used to go and study amongst the old bound journals and theses of students long dead. It was musty and dark and nearly perfect with hardwood study carols and a constant hush.

In Turkey the libraries made me cry. The children's room of the public library in Isparta had only slim, dirty, picture free paperback volumes meant to teach morals and letters. Where were the board books for babies? The beginner readers with Dr. Seuss rhymes? The short chapter books filled with bright pictures to encourage a life long love of the printed word? They were not there or in the shops either. Upstairs the regular books were kept behind a counter and could only be touched by permission and never taken out of the room. Never taken to a cozy chair to be read with hot chocolate. Never taken to bed on a stormy night. Never taken to a hot bath during a bout of the flu. It was sad and I never went back after the first visit. Before we left Turkey I donated over 100 books to the SDU library. I had taught English there but there were only a handful of English books before my donation.

Now for the third time in my life I find myself in a position were the libraries are out of reach. I don't read the language of the country I am in and have no desire to depress myself by finding out what sort of horrors lie in South Korean libraries. The post library has about the same number of books at the Chipley library were I started my life and so it will do. One day I'd like to have a library of my own. A place were children could sink into soft beanbags surrounded by the beauties of literature. A place were adults could get lost in the stacks of history or foreign language or science. I know it is a bit old fashioned now what with Kindle, iPhones, and Audible, but for me a book will always be a constant companion.

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