A Girl and Her Library

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.

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‘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.

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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.

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**Also, if anyone is interested, here’s some history about my childhood hometown library: Rupert WV Library History. 


35 thoughts on “A Girl and Her Library

  1. Oh How I love this article and WOW I did not know that Cary was getting a new library! It’s long overdue. I have also grown up in the halls of many libraries. The joys of discovery were never ending. Well, they still are never ending as long as there are books and stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cheryl: I feel the very same way about libraries—-sacred space. I love them, too. Do you know of Kim Michele Richardson’s, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek? It’s historical fiction, set in Applachian KY in the 1930’s, telling the story of women who delivered books and reading material to remote areas, often on horseback. A good read. Thank you for this heartwarming post.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Sometimes when I read your posts Cheryl I am blown away by the synchronicities of our experiences and ways of being. This is one of those posts 🙂 My book list might look a little different but that is just because I was in the local libraries a decade or two before you. I have always thought that books saved my soul…….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Pauline, I love that we share those synchronicities:) And I know books saved (and are still saving) me. I cannot even fathom who or how I’d be without books. I’m watching The Handmaid’s Tale now and the thought of reading being outlawed terrifies me. Among the other atrocities happening in Gilead. Have you read it watched it?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. I read the book when it was first published. I was living in the UK at the time and I thought the premise so bleak and far fetched……. Fast forward 25 years and pow!! I found the dramatisation equally bleak and horribly prescient. It’s the apathy and blind acceptance that chills me most.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I can still conjure up the smell of my childhood library, where I always pushed the limit of how many books I was allowed to check out! I loved that place. Oddly, I am not as big a fan of libraries these days. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just the particular libraries I’ve used since then, or maybe they’ve changed (appropriately, I freely admit) in ways that don’t please me as much. I want that huge card catalog right smack in the middle!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Congrats on the article. This is a sweet post. Yes, any sort of library. As a kid, my world/mind was half books and half real life. Different books than you. In fact, I read a lot of old books because my dad had a trash company and rescued old books and schoolbooks for me, plus I had all my mom’s old books. Then by 3rd grade I started to read adult books alongside Little House, etc. that were available at the school library. The adult books were ones I begged my mother to buy me, so mostly British classics, etc. It wasn’t until I was thrown into teaching children’s lit at the university where I taught that I really discovered children’s literature. WOW, was that every eye-opening!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Luanne. I loved writing that article and this blog post, too. I love writing about books:) I still enjoy reading children’s literature. Picture books are gorgeous these days. And YA is booming. I have read some, but want to read more. I still think I should try reading the Harry Potter series again sometime. I just couldn’t get in to them.

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      1. So you haven’t read Harry Potter? The first time I tried the first book I put it down, bored. Then I decided I was going to read them anyway and got hooked. The first book gets much better, but the next three books are SO MUCH FUN.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I did not enjoy it at all. I tried to read it to my youngest daughter when it first came out. I’ll need to borrow it from her and try again. She has the series and loves them. I bet I enjoy them all now. I’ll have to write about revisiting Harry:)

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      3. I really hope you do. The books grow in complexity with each volume. I was so surprised at my complete change in opinion, although I still think #1 begins slowly and if you’re not a fantasy reader it doesn’t appeal.

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  6. What comforting, homey memories you conjure up, Cheryl. There is something about the smell, transcendence of time, and the walls of wisdom, adventure and guidance that make a library feel like a safe haven or old friend to me. Charlotte’s Web also occupies space on my adult bookshelf…and my one elementary school was turned into our local library. It’s wonderful to see how libraries are still so loved and by so many — hopefully not to become passe’.

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    1. Thanks so much. An old friend is right, WG. I always felt safe and comfortable in the library and I still feel that way. Even in bookstores and especially at home. Anywhere that I am surrounded by books is where I want to be. Or trees:) Books and trees are my comforts.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What an interesting juxtaposition as in actuality books and trees are one and the same…just different forms, yes? Hmmm…something to contemplate a bit more I think. I do get a similar feeling in bookstores but prefer the quiet of the library. Sad to say, though, my library is not as quiet as when I was growing up. Still, those walls of books are like a great big hug. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Your essay is so evocative, Cheryl, although my small town library didn’t come into being until I was in my teens. The building–still known as the old schoolhouse–was where I was educated up through second grade and then they sent all of us kids over to the next town for school. It was walking distance from my house, past a cornfield, and when I was a teenager I spent most of my summers there, sometimes just staying inside because it was cool. Good memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You’ve brought back my own memories of the main library in my home town which was actually quite a modest size at the time of my being under 10 years old. I remember how precious those pink, hand printed, cards felt in my hand, one for each book I was allowed out. I think my limit was 6. And guess what I went for, Cheryl? Fantasy stories about elves, goblins, witches, fairies and classic collections of children’s stories. Such a special time! Many thanks for stimulating these memories!

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  9. Where would we have been without libraries when we were growing up? And our librarians today? You brought so many wonderful memories back to me of our little 1600’s Dutch stone library in town where I would sit and read or, like you, carry out armfuls of books. For this, I am also deeply grateful to my Mom, who took my brother and me faithfully each week. You were indeed lucky to have been so inspired and have the opportunity of knowing such a great librarian. BTW, are you a visitor to the annual NPR book list each year? Also a source of inspiration – 🙂 https://apps.npr.org/best-books-2018/. Jeanne

    Liked by 1 person

  10. A great post Cheryl, I loved your sense of joy and excitement when you describe your library adventures – and I’m impressed at how well you remember what you read! I loved the local library and borrowed scores of books each week, and maybe that’s why I’m the person and the writer I am today. I now work in one of the libraries that I used to go to as a child.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Andrea. Certainly most writers have a strong connection to libraries, at least our generation. Who knows what the info-technology of the future holds. I love brick and mortar libraries. Do you work in the library to write, or do you actually work for the library?

      Liked by 1 person

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