One of my favorite memories is when I signed up for my first library card. I was so excited. Imagine that — I could check out a few books for a whole week. The only problem was that I always finished all the books I checked out (usually the limit was three) by the end of the first day. Back to the library we would go — my mother with me in hand.
Eventually I was able to make the long walk down the Third Street hill on my own and visit the library. The staff soon learned that I would not be content with only a few books. They made an exception to the rule. I could check out as many as I could carry — that was heaven! I read all the books in the children’s section of the Stillwater Public Library by the end of fourth grade. Now my mother had to check out books for me in the young adult and adult section. She knew if I did not have reading material I would not be a happy camper. Again, the library staff soon learned that I could be trusted and no longer did I need to check out books on my mother’s card. I breezed through book after book after book. I was sure that I would finally finish everything in the collection (and I nearly did!).
I decided to be a book lady back when I was three or so (as the family legend goes). I learned to read at a very young age by constantly asking what the billboards said as we drove along the roads. The Burma Shave signs were also one of my early teachers! I decided to share my books by having my own library lending project. I made pockets and cards and had the neighborhood children sign them out. I found out that my circulation system did not always work. These readers loved to check out books, but not to return them (the bane of a librarian’s existence!)
I now have a grandniece – an adorable little girl who already loves books at the tender age of almost two. Her favorites change from Elizabeth and Larry to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie! She is already pretending to read – I am so thrilled that she always has the book in the correct position as she “reads” each page!
A highlight when I was in New York City for a Chinese wedding reception recently was to actually visit the New York Public Library main branch. It was fun to check out the children’s collection and imagine myself sitting there and reading to my heart’s content.
When I was in Rome, I had the privilege of actually doing research in The Vatican Library. Imagine being able to touch books that had been published in the 1400’s. I even had an opportunity to look at Henry the VIII’s love letters to Anne. He may have been a monarch and ruled a country, but his writing skills were sadly lacking.
I still am a confirmed bibliomaniac – I find that I must read every day. If I cannot find anything suitable to read, I have always said I would read the ingredients on a box of cereal.
I forever am grateful to my parents who instilled in me the love of reading. My mother used to say, “Joan, go outside and get some fresh air.” Of course, I would go outside, but with a book in hand. She knew that she had launched a reader!
My day is not complete without some reading – I read to learn, to escape, to enter new historical periods, new worlds and to experience new characters. To me reading is like breathing – an essential and necessary part of my day!