In the summer when my mother was working full time, my day always included about a half mile walk to the library where I could choose books to read for the Summer Reading Contest. I was engrossed in the books and the characters became my friends. Once I began an author I tried to read all of their published works. I was very loyal and even if I didn’t love a story, I completed the entire book cover to cover, in fear of missing something important.
We filled out index cards upon completion of the book. We were asked to summarize the plot, choose our favorite character, and explain why we loved or hated the book. The librarians were wonderful surrogate mothers and always helped guide me to new conquests. My friends at the library were mostly elderly people who came to socialize and read the paper. They often struck up conversations with me and their stories were often as interesting as the ones I read in books.
I loved the thought of jumping from section to section in the library as though I was seeing the world. For some of my friends, books and movies were their only means of travel. As I grew older, the library hosted Girl Scout, 4H and Homemaker groups as well. My drama groups, musical groups and dance groups performed for children and parents in the open artistic spaces with excellent lighting. It was very exciting to be welcomed and received so warmly by the community.
A few years ago I interviewed a student for a scholarship who told us she could not pick a favorite genre or character because she was only through the “H” section of her school library. She was much more methodical than I but our end result is similar. I see myself visiting libraries for the rest of my life.