“Love you guys!” These three words came out of my mouth spontaneously, when I only meant to think them, not say them out loud. I wasn’t saying goodbye to a family member or close friend. Instead, I was simply walking out of a public library on a cold winter’s day last month.
The statement was directed towards a young library clerk behind the checkout desk who had just handed me two movies and a big thick novel to get me through the blustery storm headed our way. This particular librarian had never seen me before, even though I’m a frequent visitor to quite a few area libraries. She appeared mildly startled by my outburst of affection, so I tried to clarify it by adding, “I love all libraries.”
Decades ago, my library love affair began with the classic Nancy Drew mystery series. As an elementary-aged school girl, I devoured these intriguing novels checking them out one-by-one. Like the Hardy Boys, these classics continue to pique the interest of some aspiring pint-sized detectives.
The books taught me the benefits reading could provide. For instance, one can escape daily problems or exchange a boring existence for an exciting adventure within the pages of a good book. Travel, romance, inspiration, education, spiritual growth, and professional success can all be achieved by reading, too.
Like today, in my youth there were wonderful programs for children. I was hooked after entering my first book contest at the library. Later, as a painfully shy 11-year-old, I had the great fortune of portraying a character from the classic book, Little Women, at the Lima Public Library. These programs have enabled countless youngsters to acquire a love of learning, increased imagination, socialization skills, and the list goes on.
Once, the public library was the resource for books of all genres and valuable information of all kinds. This was before Amazon cornered the market on book selling and Google answered lots of our endless questions with rapid search engine capabilities. But don’t for one moment think the library is in danger of extinction. Its place of prominence in a community’s list of amenities remains a high priority. After all, the ground is level at the library.
Whether it’s a book club meeting, group coloring for relaxation, information needs/resources, or children enjoying a movie, the free and often educational events bring folks of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds together. There are books, magazines, newspapers, videos, and music, in many forms and genres to check out, computers to use, and an endless variety of programs.
The operative word is FREE, and despite being a word most of us like, having access to resources without charge is a necessity for many community members. Whether it’s a single mom or dad, a young family struggling to get established, a senior citizen on a fixed income, or anyone else with a tight budget, the library offers entertainment, education, and social interaction without cost to everyone.
Of course, most library lovers are bookstore lovers. Still, many folks couldn’t afford to buy or read a book by a favorite author, unless it was available at the library.
Then there are the children. The children who are our responsibility as a community of concerned citizens. Sometimes, when browsing the shelves at the library, I see a young mother wrangling a couple kids, while clutching books and movies that will be making their way into their home.
Witnessing the sheer delight and anticipation in the children’s faces, I remember back to my own days of being a single mom with a little one in tow. I can recall the feeling of fulfillment
I had when checking out books and videos for my then young son. The library allowed me to be a better parent by providing these precious commodities when there wouldn’t have been any funds to cover their cost.
February is Library Lovers’ Month, but Library Lovers’ Day is appropriately observed on Valentine’s Day. This year why not do something special for those wonderful library ladies and men who make our lives so much richer? Maybe though, instead of saying, “Love you guys,” like I did, why not say, “Thanks for all you do to make our community a better place all year long!”
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.