I know the question could be answered simply – city library or the school library but for me I remember it differently. Now memories are funny things and I find they often tell stories so who is to know if I remember correctly or not. At any rate – yesterday when I was thinking about where I read I realized that it was also important to me where I got my books.
Yes, I have the usual spot of the school library. It was on the second floor of my elementary school half way down the hall. It had double doors that opened into a large room full of light and books. The check out desk and picture books were to the left with small round tables and the stacks of chapter books and non fiction were to the right. The non fiction section, we called it the research section had large rectangular tables with heavy wooden chairs. The place was always silent. The librarian did read to us when we came once a week and then we sat in our assigned places to read the rest of the time. It was a holy place for me. School was hard and I could breath in this space of books and light.
This was only one of the places for books in my life. There were books in my brothers room, and the family/TV room ( although the black and white TV didn’t work most of the time). These books were “adult books”. Books that I was always told were to hard for me. So of course they were the places I would slip into to read bits and piece of books before I would get caught and chased away, especially from my brothers room. In those places I found books by James Thurber, Ernest Hemingway, Mad Magazine and other classics.
Then there were the books hidden on the high top shelf of my Grandfathers farm house. These books were placed there by my two Aunts who were school teachers. The books were to high to reach and so you just stared. We read the titles over and over again wondering about the stories inside them. Just before leaving the farm for the hour and half drive home we would be go quietly up the steps with one of the Aunts and she would ask which title we wanted. You had to be ready or they picked one for you. Its tricky picking books by title only but in truth I think any of them would have been great reads.
They also had books in case in the sitting parlor on the main floor of the house. It was a book case with glass doors on each shelf. It wasn’t until we could prove ourselves as good readers that we could open those precious doors and check out books from there. They had their own card system and pockets in the books for signing them out. There was no time limit for when books were due back because we were never sure when we were returning to the farm but if you did not return the book you received a letter of reminder from one of the Aunts asking about its return.
Another place to pick books was the large public library downtown. A place we did not visit often. It was for us the research library. The place you go when you needed to write a report. It was a special trip downtown and one of honor to walk up the marble steps and into the great halls of books. The smell of polished oak railings, rows and rows of high shelfs and dusty books. There was a sound of the pneumatic tube that sent messages off to the hidden shelfs on the top floors. The floor only the library staff were allow to walk among the hallowed books.
We were also blessing with a book mobile that traveled the city every few weeks. We could walk to this large van to choose reading materials. This traveling library was noisy, a bit moldy and always packed with folks checking out books. Now just a forgotten truck.
The last place my mind goes to is the garage of a fellow church member. I know a bit of an odd place and I am sure the books were not there for me but I read and look at them any way. This generous man knew we were a family of three kids and a mom. He was there to help in little ways. A treat at the drug store (think soda fountain). His home was on the way to the apple orchard I like to read and play in. At some time he shared with me that the small door to the garage was always open. Inside that door on a hook was a purse with treats and a bit of money if we were ever in need or in trouble. Who know what kind of trouble he thought I might get into – I couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10. In this garage there were a few books. I can’t tell you the titles or why they were there. I just knew in my life you could go almost anywhere and someone had a book that could be read.
Funny, I just realized there were no book stores in my childhood thinking -very odd indeed.