Tomorrow, I have learned from Twitter, has been dubbed the official “Take Your Kid To The Library Day.” I was only a little befuddled when I read this.
The first thing that crossed my mind was “what, only one day?” That was quickly followed by outrage as I remembered that there are, in fact, many families who never ever use the library. There are kids who only ever go to the library at their school. That there are people who not only didn’t get a library card when they were two, they still don’t have a library card at the age of 22 or 32 and probably never will. Ahem. Sorry, I get a little passionate about books and reading sometimes.
I like libraries.
When I was a girl, the library was a place I visited almost every week. Rain or shine, whether I had a drive from my parents or had to walk there myself, it was somewhere that I went.
All. The. Time.
I knew the sections of the library the way other people know their way around the grocery store. I knew which books were always on the shelves and which ones I had to request in advance if I wanted to get my hands on them anytime soon. I even knew the Bookmobile‘s schedule and would visit it often even though the library had a branch within easy walking distance, just because it was fun to climb inside an RV filled top to bottom with bookshelves and chat with the librarian for a while as I picked out books.
When I started taking care of my brother and sister after school and on weekends, I would often throw N in her stroller and take them to the library with me, even if the little old ladies who went to the library for a coffee and a gossip thought that it was absolutely shameful that a girl my age had a baby and a little boy and no wedding ring. I gave up trying to explain that the kids were my siblings and not my children after only a hundred times or so.
To this day, I simply cannot go in to the library and come out with only one book. Even if I only have one book that has come in as a request and I have a dozen at home in the library book bin (yes, we have a bin. It helps us not lose books.)… it is physically impossible for me to exit a library with a single, solitary book. Three is a bare minimum, I’ve found, though 6 to 8 is better. And if I have the kids with me? Well, let’s just say we really like books around here and leave it at that.
Nowadays, the library offers so much more than just books. Homework help, book clubs, free lecture series, computer classes, e-books, language lessons, access to newspapers and journals, museum passes, pedometers, energy meters, genealogy services, help for small businesses, career help, computer and internet access, audiobooks, animated “talking” books for kids, board game clubs, storytime for kids, and workshops of all kinds. We’ve had all sorts of fun, thanks to the library, and only some of it has been centered around books.
Someone told me recently that they get the same feeling walking in to a library as they do walking into a church. That sense of hush, the need to be quiet and reverent, the need to tiptoe down the aisles and let the presence of so many books just sort of wash over you before you can start to make a few choices.
I get it. I do, really. I love that library smell. I love the stacks of books. I love the peacefulness of spending a quiet hour or two at the library.
But I disagree.
To me, walking into a library is less like walking into a church and more like coming home and finding all your old friends sitting there chatting while drinking a cup of cocoa, and a whole bunch of new friends, freshly scrubbed and faces shining, eager to hang out with you for a while, combined with a candy store where every single shelf is marked “Free! Help yourself!” and they really, really mean it.
I don’t feel a reverent hush when I go to the library. I feel like I’ve just been handed the keys to the universe and told to go ahead and take it for a test drive.
So what are you going to do with your kids tomorrow?