Most of us who love books have a story about how we first came to love them.
My mom was a huge reader, but we didn’t have a lot of money to buy books. But she was constantly hauling us off to the library. That was the only way I knew of to get books. The idea of a book store never even occurred to me until I was much older.
In fact, I came to love the smell of old books. The more bent, the more old fashioned, the more read, the more loved they seemed to be. I never longed for brand new books. To this day I prefer the smell and feel of the old, worn ones.
Books are your friends, my mother told me from a very young age, (like I’ve repeated the mantra to my daughters time and time again, your sister is your best friend, praying that it took!). When you’re sad, pick up a book, she would say. You’ll get lost in the world of the book and forget your own troubles for a while and when you stop reading, you’ll feel better.
She was right. So my mother began my love affair with libraries, but at our little library, there was a wonderful librarian whom I remember very fondly from my childhood. I remember her being…amazing.
She had this quiet way of knowing what you were doing and then suddenly coming over to you and saying, why don’t you try this book? Or, this book is better, it has better pictures. Or, I can order you another one in that series if you like it.
She never balked at all the endless questions we bombarded her with to get sources for school reports and projects. She was endlessly patient. She was the kind of person made you want to be curious–that rewarded our inquisitions with…answers. No assignment was impossible. And she taught me that maybe no one knows all the answers, but you can always look them up. And if our tiny library didn’t have what was needed, then by God, she’d find it somewhere else and ship it in for us.
Miss M. taught me that there was a big world beyond the confines of our tiny town, and to learn about it, all you had to do was pick up a book.
When I got into graduate school, I sent Miss M. a note thanking her for all she’d done. Looking back, I remember it was my mom’s idea. “She’s asking how you’re doing in college,” my mother would say. “Why don’t you drop her a little note.”
Today, I’m so glad I did. Even though at the time I wrote that note, I had really no idea what a rare, wonderful person Miss M. was. In all my years of taking my own children to the library, we have met some very special librarians too, like the one who searched every corner of the universe to keep my preschool son supplied with dragon picture books during his dragon fetish.
For every kind, non-cranky librarian who loves children and doesn’t constantly shush you or snap at you, who treats your children wonderfully, who isn’t a compulsive rule follower and who loves to learn…thank you. You made all the difference.
Don’t wait until National Library Workers’ Day in April. Go hug and kiss your librarian today!