by Neal Lemery
My hometown library and I go way back. We are best friends.
One of my earliest memories was going with my mom to the “old” library, before I could read. We’d walk up the ramp to the second floor of the old city hall building, the hardwood floors creaking with age. I still recall that smell of floor wax and old books.
We’d find so many books for my mom and my dad to read to me at bedtime, books about anything I was curious about. Our visits were just part of our life, and books became a treasured part of my life. If there was ever a question around the dinner table, someone would say, “Let’s look into that at the library”.
Mom, Dad and my brothers checked out books, too. The library was a big part of our family life.
The library moved across the street when the old library simply outgrew itself. The vacant car dealership became our library, with more room for books and study tables, even a corner for kids and weekly story times. The town was very proud of our new library.
On a warm spring day, my first grade class paraded the six blocks to the library, where we all got our brand new library cards. I still have mine, and remember the “ka-thunk” sound it made in the check out machine at the front desk.
My own library card! The world opened up to me, and I explored the stacks and the card catalog. Sometimes, the librarian would show me a new book that had come in, knowing I’d be interested.
The summer reading program was one of the highlights of my childhood. I kept a stack of books on my bedside table, a habit I carry on today.
In high school, the library was the place to meet friends downtown, and the place to research and write papers, and keep checking out books.
When I was in college, I’d stop by to work on a paper, and visit with the librarians, who asked me how school was going, and what I’d been reading.
The library continued to be a part of my life, and I kept up with my reading, and finding materials I needed for my law practice. I’d send clients there for books, even helping folks become cardholders and lifelong readers like me.
Yet, the “new” library was bursting at the seams. There wasn’t enough room for new books, and the “story hour” area was pushed up against the study tables filled with high school students and everyone else who came to check out a book.
The new librarian, Sara Charlton, started the conversation about dreaming of a new library, and the idea took off.
The voters agreed, and, for the first time, we had a community library that was actually designed as a library. Spacious, well-lit, and supplied with an abundance…