Public libraries are magical places

Published 9:33 pm Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Libraries are magical places.

They’re basically free bookstores where you can borrow the material, “consume” it and then return the product.

My aunt was a librarian for many years and my mother worked at a library for a few years, too. I have a handful of very clear memories of my early childhood, toddler age.

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One of those is sitting in a closet in the Burnsville Public Library in North Mississippi where my mother worked. I can still see vividly photos of butterflies in the book I held. I’m told my older brother and I walked the few blocks to the library while Dad was working on the car. When Dad went inside to check on us and discovered us gone, he called Mom, who ratted us out. I guess she thought Dad let us go in the library while he was out front, knowing she’d see us right away.

The closet came into play when my brother realized Dad was coming after us and we might be better off if we hid. But as I grew older, the library was not just a place of clandestine perusing of butterfly photos.

During long summer days, Aunt Jane would let us sit in the Corinth Library’s meeting room and watch reel-to-reel films on a battered screen. Sometimes we even had popcorn.

It was in the library that I first encountered books of elaborate adventures, horrifying monsters, fantastical battles and stories that caused me to think long and hard about them.

I’m pretty sure there were books of immature jokes in there, too.

My siblings and I started reading early and we read often. Mom and Dad challenged us to read books that were above our reading levels. We had guidelines for what we could check out from the library. I could borrow as many as I liked that were categorized as in reading levels above whatever I’d been tested at.

So I felt free to explore worlds that were not available to younger readers. I sat among the stacks of adult fiction and read stories of cowboys and early American settlers. I camped out in the biographies and read about the lives of stars of the silver screen, presidents and inventors. I have spent countless hours in the public libraries of every place I’ve lived or visited for any length of time.

Libraries hold treasures that you can take up in your hands and enjoy. I have hundreds of books on reading apps on my phone. I have purchased and read more than a few thousand books in physical print form and I have borrowed, read and returned to a library just as many.

There’s just something about holding a book, flipping the pages, feeling the paper, smelling the aroma that only paper, board and binders glue produces.

Any city or county with a public library is blessed.

I tell you, it’s magical.

And sometimes there’s popcorn.