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August 11, 2005

Readers Share Their Library Stories

Posted by admin

My blog about my library memories got so many notes from readers that I wanted to share their comments with you. Read on, and see if any of their words provoke some memories for you.


I loved your piece on the libraries you loved as a girl. I too was a big fan of my local library. I grew up in Fargo, North Dakota and the Fargo Public Library was a square stone building about a block off the main shopping district downtown. It was a Carnegie funded library and like the one you described in Bloomfield, the children's section was downstairs and the adult books and the reading room were upstairs.

When I was nine or ten, I was allowed to walk downtown - about ten city blocks, to the library by myself. I loved picking out books and was especially fond of an old historical novel series called "A Girl at ..." the place being the site of an historical event such as the Boston Tea Party or Gettysburg, I can still picture exactly where this series sat in that basement room. The books in that library had an unusual odor about them - to me they smelled something like banana peels, but in a good way.

I remember finally being old enough, maybe twelve, to go up and pick books from the adult section. I loved the polished wood floors and tables, the wooden card catalog case and the huge windows in the adult reading room. The adult stacks were intriguing.

By the time I got to high school, the city decided to tear down the old library and built a new one adjacent to the new city hall. I never quite had the same feeling in that modern, carpeted place with study carrels and metal shelves.

Perhaps sadly, I rarely go to a library any more. I tend to prefer bookstores - especially those with cafes and comfortable seating.

Your article brought back some very pleasant memories from the late '50s and early '60s. Thanks.

-Beth from Moorhead, MN newly moved to Sioux Falls, SD

I just read your Library memories and I loved it. I was also at the American Library Association conference this past week, but as a member of the library profession.

I grew up in Hicksville, NY (on Long Island) and remember going to the library with my mother. She was an avid reader (mostly mysteries) and the library was in an old house (it's still part of the library, but I think only for offices now). I remember sitting on the steps outside the mystery room with my own books and waiting for her to pick out hers. I also went to the bookmobile. In this area (I still live on Long Island), they are a dinosaur although they may still exist. I also remember my high school librarian. She was a dynamo (and still is I think) and she had a great influence on me.

While I did not hear Nancy Pearl at ALA I did spend a bit of time on the exhibit floor and all of those books bring me back to my childhood. They make me want to read, and maybe even own them all.

I think what comes through with your blog and my email is that parents reading to and taking their children to the library is the most influential part of raising a reader. I spent about 25 years of my career as a children's librarian and we should never underestimate their power.

When I read that people are reading less, it saddens me. But then the resurgence of business at my library makes me think the reports are wrong. Do you have any thoughts on that and how we might make reading the most important thing one can do, again.

-Michele from Huntington, NY

I worked in a small-town library for a while. One of my jobs was to cover and put Dewey numbers on the books, which gave me a good chance to see all the new books. So often I said to myself, "I could write a book like this!"

So I did.

Books give me the impression that anything is possible!
In the immortal words of Sara Henderson:
‘Don't wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel. Stride down there… and light the bloody thing yourself.'

- Kathryn Sultzbaugh, published by Andrews McMeel and Universal Press Syndicate"

First of all, I really appreciated your blog in May on reading -- I am a former teacher and school librarian!!!!!

But your most recent musing on your memories of libraries you have frequented in life brought back a lot of memories for me and I am grateful beyond words. I moved a lot as a child and libraries were always a safe haven where I felt at home immediately.

Your descriptions of buildings and shelving and departments (venturing into the adult sections, etc.) could have been mine.

I also remember feeling the librarians were some of my very best friends and loving their recommendations for me and my reading tastes. My parents were not avid readers but faithfully took us to the library on a weekly basis. I remember checking out more books than I could carry -- mostly picture books. I also remember hating the library rules that limited books to 3 per visit in one library.

As an adult when I moved to Madison,Wisconsin from Arlington Heights, Illinois many people asked me what I missed most from the Chicago area lifestyle. I always responded immediately: my friends, the Arlington Heights library and the Crate and Barrel stores! I got the weirdest looks ... except from readers. We moved here just as funding to libraries was sadly being cut on an annual basis.

However, the bookmobile comes to our neighborhood and for years both my children loved the fact that they could go to the bookmobile by themselves from the age of five. My older son loved to "request books" that he couldn't find on the bookmobile from the age of 6 and the bookmobile staff always delivered them the following week. It was one of his first experiences of independence and he loved it!!!

Thanks for the memories and keep writing your wonderful musings!!!!!

And happy reading.


Since the age of 5 my parents would have me stay with my grandparents in Nantasket beach. Every week we would go the the library. It actually was a house, the adult books were on the bottom and the children on the top. I loved the smell of the old library, and the shelves. You could also smell the ocean. Actually you could see the ocean, the foundation was on the ridge of a cliff and see the brakes of the waves from there. I am now in my mid 40's, but that library brings back memorial warm feeling. I am sure that library is not there which is a shame. This is in the summer where my grandparents took me. But the library where my father took me was large, not cozy feeling. Boy, do I remember the wooden floors and the creaky sounds which I loved. What warm feeling it brings back.

- Susan from Myrtle Beach, SC

I love your site and read your "column" whenever a new one is posted.

I especially enjoyed the latest one posted on July 1st - Library Memories.

I live in Southwest Florida, and have lived in Lee County for almost 42 years - my parents moved my sister and I here from upstate New York. I have always been an avid reader - an obsessive one actually, I keep buying books even though I have plenty to read on hand. My daughter is the same way, fortunately.

Anyway, the library here in town when I was 10 was not a huge building but a cozy & inviting one. The adult section was on the first floor & the kids section was on the second floor, with a wonderful winding staircase to climb to get there. You could look up and see the whole second floor; it wound around the first floor in a "U" shape. I remember checking out "The Lion's Paw," which was a book about the beaches & seashells in the area. I'd love to find that book somewhere - haven't been able to track it down yet. When I got older, I used to find books about the Civil War by Bruce Catton there.

I loved that library - it's now being used as a building where people can rent it out for meetings. We now have a main library branch as well as several other area branches in the County, but I remember the older one with great fondness. I content myself now with trips to the Barnes & Noble with their wonderful chairs. As soon as I can figure out how to sneak one of them out without being caught, I'll be all set!

I love everything about books & love to talk about them when I find a fellow reader that's as obsessed with them as I am.

-Debbie from Fort Myers, Florida

I loved your blog about your library memories.

For me, there's something about walking into a library that creates an instinctive bonding, a feeling of "ah, yes." There's excitement, too, a sense that new adventures are about to happen. I've always felt that my primary method of learning came from reading, setting the book down, open faced, and then reflecting. That's my way of absorbing the under layment to the text.

I have a particularly fond memory about a specific library that I encountered as a young Marine bride. He was stationed in 29 Palms, California, and many years ago, the town was known as the poor man's Palm Springs. 29 Palms' main claim to fame was the large Marine artillery base located there and the string of bars on its one main street. Oh, yes, 29 Palms also had a unique drive-in movie theater that was actually a converted and roofless big barn.

And there was its small library.

I loved going to the library in its homely wooden building, visiting and getting referrals to books from the librarian who loved her job, and would order on interlibrary loan, books that she thought I'd enjoy. That library was a kind of second home for me, something familiar, safe, a refuge, and a place to expand my horizons beyond where I was at that time. The books there were my friends as much as the other Marine wives who I came to know.

Since that time, I've had the opportunity to become both a grant writer and a mystery author. I know without doubt that some of those reading times in that quaint library in 29 Palms have been an instrumental part of my journey to this point.
- Patricia from Tacoma, Washington

The Old Library

I remember living back in my old neighborhood in walking distance of the Soulard area of St.Louis, MO. My friend and me would often take that long walk to the old Lafayette Library where you had quite a few steps to climb before you reach those huge doors. Being youthful was a plus. Once inside the feeling comes over one as if being greeted by old friends without tongues. They need not say one word to beckon you over to the shelves where they rested till my busy hand took hold and reading the title didn't take long this was the book. The book that would take me on a journey into another young girls adventures of the heart. If I didn’t know where a certain book was I would go up to the main front desk. On the corner of the huge desk was a old container holding the index cards of all the books in the library. The search was on, flipping thru each card under the certain author’s names till bingo there was the one with many old due dates stamp many times over in ink. Ten days was the limit and the fear of wrathe was seared into ones soul if you were late in returning the books. We were poor and paying for an over due book was not taken lightly.

Then standing in line watching the librarian’s hand going back and forth with stamper in hand branding the book with ink the due date. Then as my friend and me left behind us the place of stillness. Our youthful voices would once more start with silly chatter or laughter. My friend would burst into singing the song "Am Forever Blowing Bubbles" as I would pretend to pop the invisible bubbles floating into the air.

Taking an short cut thru Soulard Market my friend would buy us delicous fudge candy. So ended our trip to the library. Books in one hand and a bag of candy in the other. Life couldn’t be better till our next trip back to the old Lafayette Library. Yes,it's still standing has been many of different things since my times in the late Forties and early Fifties. Now it has closed eyes all boarded up.Yet it remains always a special memory in my heart. Yes. I still go to libraries.


I just read your last two blogs and wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed them...and how much I enjoy

I also have fond memories of riding my Schwinn bike with purple basket to the library in the summers growing up in suburban Chicago. Like you, my hometown now has a huge new library that replaced the old one I remember so well.

I am now living one of those "I never thought I would be doing this" lives...I am the library aide at my children's elementary school. I have a journalism degree and never thought I would be sitting behind a desk checking books out to young readers...but here I am.

Thanks for the work you do. I enjoy Bookreporter and have shared it with my friends and reading group.

-Tami from Scottsdale, AZ

Oh, Carol, your childhood library experiences brought back such wonderful
memories. You didn't mention the "smell" of an old library
of my favorite things about my old hometown library. New libraries just don't have that same aroma!

- Sharon from Lancaster, OH

I grew up in a small town in central Missouri where the only library was the bookmobile that came every two weeks or was it once a month? My grandmother who shared my passion for reading and I would visit and leave with stacks and stacks of books. Thanks for sharing your memory.

- Ann from Lee's Summit, MO