I am immersed in books these days. It's charity book sale season around these parts, and I just finished my stints with the CBC / Calgary Reads book sale, my first go at actually attending the event. I've been doing communications for the sale for the past three years, but this is the first year I have been in situ for the sale itself.
There are no excuses left when you no longer have to help your Offspring move home for the summer.
Being surrounded by all those books, and the fact that this year is the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Public Library, has got me thinking about all the libraries that have passed through my life.
The first library I remember was an empty classroom across the hall from my new Grade One class. When the mean old teacher left abruptly about a month into the school year (I have no idea if she died or just jumped ship), our class was divided amongst the two remaining Grade One teachers and our old classroom turned into a library. If I recall correctly, it was even open after school let out for the day. Even back then I remember thinking it was a pretty sweet deal.
We then moved to Regina, and the library I used there was a bus that came around every two weeks, parking in front of the strip mall with the confectionery. There weren't a tonne of books available in the book mobile, and by Grade Two I was a pretty greedy little reader, so I went through the kids' section pretty quickly. I still recall the day that the librarian let me check out The Yearling, although she did subject me to a brief psychological exam beforehand. Evidently I passed, although I am sure I didn't understand half of the book. At least she didn't tell me that the deer dies.
In graduate school, I spent a fair bit of time in the ramshackle stacks of the old Agriculture library, doing literature searches for my thesis in musty old bound journals, ordering obscure journals through interlibrary loan, and filling out endless reprint requests on little slips of paper. The late 80s seem so archaic now, don't they? Many trees died for my thesis.
We had the most amazing library in our neighbourhood in London, where the Offspring and I would spend countless hours when she was a toddler. It was a 15 minute stroller walk from our house, down leafy streets of red brick houses with big front porches. The library wasn't large, but it was a new mom's paradise, with a kid's area complete with puppet theatres and puzzles and story hours. The sidewalk out front was always crammed with strollers. Fortunately this was in the day before Hummer strollers, which kept the parking rage to a minimum.
I remember the first trip the Offspring and I made to the nearest library after moving to Calgary (a 10 minute car ride replacing the leisurely stroller walk). I had been talking up how great this big new library was going to be, how much fun we were going to have in this new city. We followed the arrows up the stairs to the kids' section on the second floor, and as we approached, the Offspring ran excitedly toward it, expecting to find all manner of kids to play with, just like in London. Instead, she stopped short, confronted with a wall of nothing but books, and turned to me accusingly. "Where's the play area?" she demanded. No puppet theatre, no puzzles, no kids playing, nothing but books.
Despite that, the Offspring quickly became an even bigger fan of libraries than I am. Many of her first solo C-train trips were to the downtown library, where she could shake off the taint of the suburbs, immerse herself in the anonymity of the city, and lose herself in books. We still go to the library whenever she comes home for a visit. Probably always will.
What are your favourite library memories?