Creaky floors. A desk where Mrs. Boatright sat, ready to stamp our books with the due date. It seems like maybe there was a card in a pocket, too. You could see the names of everyone who had read the book before you. (It was kind of exciting, like being a spy! And the names on the card, these teenagers I looked up to, had they really been young like me, written these names in their childish writing?)
Of course there were rows of shelves filled with books. Treasures. One shelf held almost all of the Walter Farley Black Stallion series, and The Island Stallion series as well, which I liked even better. (The idea of a world hidden from view on an island was so intriguing and magical, almost like the hidden world in The Secret Garden or the mysterious room in which lived the beautiful lady in The Princess and the Goblin.)
But hidden worlds aside, reading about horses was an obsession with me. If I couldn’t have a horse of my own – which I was pretty sure I couldn’t, having endlessly begged my poor parents, with their five children and their half-acre lot, for a horse to keep in my backyard – then I could at least read about them.
When I was older, I found more books I loved in the “grownup” room of that same library. Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt. Mystery and romance. And then, surprise! I discovered that Agatha Christie had written other books, under the name Mary Westmacott, that were vastly different from her mystery books. Imagine! Who knew? I had never heard this fact, and so, somehow these books felt like “mine” in a sense. They weren’t exactly a secret, I knew that, but somehow I felt that I had discovered them.
The school libraries at Allgood and West Side, where I attended elementary school, were just as thrilling for me as the one at my church. The public library near the Marietta Square at the time when I grew up was located in the building which is now the Marietta/Cobb Museum of Art. Long ago this same building had been the Marietta Post Office. I remember the marble floor at the entrance, the huge lofty ceilings, and a feeling that there was an almost endless amount of books.
A wonderful librarian worked there. She seemed to think my little red-haired boy, Gary, was just as special as I did. And when he went upstairs for Storytime, she talked to me about books she thought I would like. How did she know, this librarian, what I would like? How did she know all the best books?
I still think librarians and media specialists are wonderful people who know things the rest of us don’t know. They love books and they organize books and they know about books. Of course now they are experts in so many forms of media as well as print, and they can help with almost unlimited reference needs. My great library memories now include the school media center at Addison Elementary, the school where I taught, and several public libraries where I took Gary and Ben when they were growing up.
These days I mostly go to Gritters Library, the branch library closest to me. Here I have found unbelievably helpful librarians who went out of their way to help me when I was writing Winter Wish. Here I can get help with reference materials and online research. And these days I have once again met a wonderful librarian, who somehow knows about all the best books.
One of the things I enjoy doing, now that I am retired from teaching, is browsing. Isn’t that a great word, “browsing”? At this point in my life I have come full circle. Loving libraries like I did when I was a child.