Monday, June 22, 2009

The Library is Still a Magical Place

If you were a student before or during the early days of the Internet Age, you probably spent at least a little time in a library. Maybe you spent a lot of time in a library. The library was the place to go for sources on finishing your book reports, and for getting free books or movies or music. Sometimes the library was just a place to go to hang out.

About a week ago, I got my first library card in more than twenty years. I had been into libraries plenty of times during that time period, often to check something in the reference section or to use the computers or for a dozen other tasks that did not include checking out a book. As a writer and a once-upon-a-time newspaper journalist, I received tons and tons of books for free. I also live within walking distance of 5 used book stores. So, I never really felt the need to have a library card.

But I live only about a block from my city's main library. I got to thinking, it's silly, me being a writer, only yards away from the library, and I don't have a library card. So I walked down last week and got a library card.

Then I spent half the day walking up and down the five floors that make up the library. I was blown away. I had forgotten what it was like to roam through literally millions and millions of shelved books. It was a nice feeling, almost like coming home.

There's something about libraries, especially big and older libraries. It's like stepping back in time with a time machine. It's not just a sense that you can read about history, but a feeling that you are part of a living history that all these printed books has kept alive. But in a secret kind of way. Just sitting there all those years waiting for you to come along and discover them. It's difficult to explain, and I'm not sure a younger person would understand, at least those who aren't readers. Maybe even older folks who aren't regular readers wouldn't understand.

Since that day I got my new library card, I've been back every single day. I've checked out movies and tons and tons of books. More books than I have time to read (and I've still got a short stack of my own books to read). Still, the books I checked out are mine for at least a month. I think I can get through a few of them in that time.

Then what?

Another trip to the library, of course.

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