A Trip to the Library

Okay, I admit it. I have gone to the Library less frequently since getting my Kindle. There isn’t actually any library on my daily orbit. The two public libraries (branches of our County Library System) are located 2 miles west and 5 miles east of home. Each has its charms, and my workplace (a public college) also has a Library.

The Library to the east of me is a big, busy place with an odd history. It started as a Township library full of donated books in the municipal building, but that burned down around 1982. Whatever was salvaged was moved to the basement of the Catholic school nearby. That space had no windows and lots of overhead pipes. It was very easy bang my head. The stairs were treacherous, but this was before ADA. Some time around then, the Township joined the County Library System, which promised an upgrade. The first upgrade was a rented “office” type space. It was so small, if I saw more than six cars in the parking lot, I just drove on. I knew the Library would be uncomfortably crowded. There was just one table to use for story hours, discussion groups, etc. My prime memory of this site is that I discovered the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. It was in the adult fiction section, but I read it to my kids. Very funny! A few years later, the County delivered on it’s promise of a new building. It’s beautiful, with a BIG children’s section and plenty of space for high schoolers to do homework. Literacy volunteers confer with their clients. A small auditorium is used for public events, like flu shots. Looking at the new Library, I felt that maybe our Township was finally a “real place”.

The Library located west of me is smaller. It’s been open for about 10 years, but the building might be 80 years old. It was built as a bank. I don’t know how many years it was closed. I love it! Reflecting the community, many titles are in Spanish. The “new arrivals” shelves are so crowded that there’s just one chair on each side, for the browsers of new fiction and new non-fiction. The computers are located in the old bank vault. I see kids working on homework. It’s a cheerful place, though a tight fit.

The third library, at the college where I work, is centrally located and reasonably convenient for everyone except the employees in security and facilities, where I labor. Driving over is a bad bet (parking issues) and sometimes I’m not in the mood for the 20 minute walk. But it’s worth it when I get there! I haunt the New Arrivals shelves and the Recreational Reading section. The Library has been expanded three times since I arrived in 1975, and it has been colonized by various offices and academic centers. But it’s got the stacks and tables and quiet atmosphere I enjoy. Like most colleges and many libraries, the place is having an identity crisis. What does it mean to be a library in the internet age? Whatever happened to “shhhh…”? Can millenials be separated from their coffee? What do students read? DO they read? Should the Library be transformed into a “learning commons”, like some universities have done? My friends on the staff tell me that Library use is down, and if people don’t start using the Recreational Reading section, it will disappear. I obligingly take at least six books every time I stop in, even if I know I won’t read them all.

So those are my libraries. Each is important to me! The Kindle is great, can’t beat it for travel, but it’s not going to take over my reading life.


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