Saturday, September 21, 2013

An Ode to Librarians

I've talked about how much I live this close to Downtown Newnan's "Square" favorite coffee shop, the atmosphere, the local merchants, the events...but I don't think I've ever mentioned the library. 

The Carnegie Library on the Square has to be one of my favorite libraries of all time. It has an atmosphere of welcome...not like "welcome, come find a book and we'll see you next time" but "welcome, come hang out for as long as you like." It's really reminiscent of the library in my hometown so that's probably one of the reasons I love it so much. The selection isn't huge because the majority of the books are donated but they are on an "honor system." There is no library card or checking books out. You pick out your books, tell the librarian how many you are taking and bring them back when you can (No overdue fees! Hallelujah!) 

The other day I was in there working on a computer because the internet at home was having issues. Obviously, since I'm there, I'm going to grab a few books. On a time limit, I grabbed three and walked up to the desk. "Three" I told the librarian. "Only three?" She chuckled. We shared a little more small talk and I walked out into the beautiful almost Fall weather with a grin on my face.

Part of my glee was the fact I have now been into the Carnegie enough times the librarians are starting to recognize me. I really like the staff there and being able to interact with them enriches the experience. Like most humans, I like being known.

And the truth is, I have known and been known by some of the best librarians on the planet. I was thinking of them as I walked back to my car and I just can't resist sharing about some of them with you. If for no other reason than I enjoy sharing the riches life has given...and maybe so you can show some love to the librarians in your life. Unfortunately, most of their names have escaped my heart and mind but not their impact.

There was the librarian at Menlo Elementary. The one who introduced me to the Mary Poppins series (there is so much more to the story than the Disney movie!), who put Louisa May Alcott into my hand, who shared my excitement when my Grandfather gave me the entire Little House On The Prarie series for Christmas, and who told stories about her giant son "George." George was so giant they had to buy tents and tarps to make his clothes and build a special door so he could get in the house. And being so giant, he got into many a fix. She loved books. Even more she loved children.

Living in Gray, the librarian at the public library introduced me to Betsy Byars. And, once I'd read pretty much every book in the Young Adult section (it was pretty small), she bent the rules and let me move on to the adult section (yes, they had rules about that). I still remember the day someone else was at the counter when I placed Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Mists of Avalon" on the desk. This person didn't know I was special, with special privileges and wasn't going to let me check it out until my librarian came up and intervened. I remember she told me I might have bit off more than I could chew but I was insistent. She was actually right. It took me the entire two weeks and I didn't get parts of it (I would re-read it later in life) but I persisted.

In Middle School, the school librarian who told my sixth grade self that she couldn't wait until I was in 8th grade and could read Jane Eyre. She gave it to me in 7th grade. And thus my love for the Brontes was born. She also introduced me to William Shakespeare after I described the incredibly sad movie I'd watched over the weekend (It was Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet). In 8th Grade, she watched me pore over the books learning everything I could about "cancer"...every now and then she would come by and rub my back or put her hand on my shoulder as I tried to understand this disease that was eating away at my Grandma. She also laughed as I showed up the aides who came from the high school when they quizzed me about the books I returned because they suspected I wasn't actually reading them but trying to get out of class.

In high school and back in Menlo, I'd ride my bike to the small library close to the center of town. The librarian was fierce and put up with no silly behaviors. She never said but I'm pretty sure she suspected that I was there as much for my love of books as I was to "get away" and so she tolerated me. Then one day she told me if I was going to be there all the time, I might as well make myself "useful." And she let me put books away (you have no idea the amount of trust that took for her!), decorate the bulletin boards (I'd put that skill to use again as a Headstart Teacher), clean and get things ready for summer book clubs. We didn't talk much but enjoyed each other's company.

I wonder...which came first...the love of books or the love of the librarian? I'm so grateful to these women who showed me love, introduced me to their favorite books, and shared their fascination of the written word with me. If you are a librarian, I hope you know the impact you have. I hope you know that 22, 28 and even 35 years later, your influence will resonate in someone's life. Thank you for all you do!

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