I have always loved libraries. All libraries–public, university, school, special collections, archives, personal–are sacred places to me. Some of my earliest memories involve my small hometown library. It opened when I was in elementary school and quickly became a haven for me. The librarian, Marjorie Osborne, was a kind person who allowed me to check out as many books as I wanted, or could carry home. I remember a few of my favorite books. I checked them out over and over. I could recite passages by heart from ‘The Hodgepodge Book’ and ‘The Whim-Wham Book.’ This was a favorite jingle, and I was allowed to say the “bad” word because my mom agreed with the sentiment.
‘From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’ imbued in me a sense of adventure and empowered me to believe that even as an adolescent I could do anything. Although, I never made it to The Metropolitan Museum of Art as a child like I planned to, I did make it as an adult with my own child. I still dream about sneaking in there and spending a few days unnoticed by guards, workers, visitors like Claudia and Jamie did. I haven’t outgrown my need for adventure. I pray I never do.
‘The Day the World Went Away’ stayed with me to this day. If it’s a particularly quiet day, no sounds, no traffic, no people around I think–could it be? Could everyone vanish without a trace? Could a small group take over a town overnight?
I wore out the library’s copy of ‘Gnomes.’ I checked out that book more than any other. I wanted so very much to believe in an enchanted world seen only by those with magical sight–myself included, of course. I also loved watching Disney’s ‘The Gnome-Mobile.’ My god, how I wanted that tiny gnome-infused landscape to be the real world I belonged to.
‘Charlotte’s Web,’ ‘The Hundred and One Dalmatians,’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’–these, too, held worlds that I felt were the true world, my world. My world in books.
By now, you’ve probably caught on to me. Growing up, I lived in a fantasy world and the library was where it all began. With books, glorious books. I still live in a fantasy world. I still look for gnomes and sprites and elves on my walks through the woods. I still dream of hiding out in museums and galleries and having them all to myself to discover under cover of the night. My imagination still runs away and explores places and worlds where I have not set foot–yet. Yet. And I still enjoy a good bit of nonsense, hodgepodge, and whim-wham in my life. I suppose I always will.
As a child, I learned as long as I had libraries and books, I could have adventures. This stringy-haired, skinned-knee, smart-mouth, bad-word-saying tomboy who hardly ever crossed the West Virginia State Line could have never imagined all of the adventures that her grown-up self would have. Nor all the books, including all of these that I bought as an adult for my home library.
And now, I write about those adventures.
Thank you, Marjorie and all the librarians that handed me a small card and said (maybe not aloud, but I swear I heard it), “Here is your key to whatever you want to do or be.”
I’m so glad I believed it.
**I wrote a piece about Cary, North Carolina’s brand new regional library for Cary Living magazine’s current issue. If you’d like to read it, here’s a link: Cary Regional Library.
**Also, if anyone is interested, here’s some history about my childhood hometown library: Rupert WV Library History.