Monday, July 13, 2009

The Scent of a Library


This may sound lame, (if you did it, too, then it probably won’t) but when I was a kid, I used to play “librarian.” I’d set up a table and a stack of books, and armed with a stamp and ink pad, I’d “check out” books for my imaginary friends. (The imaginary friends are a whole nother story.)

For years, I dreamed of being a librarian. But I also wanted to be a teacher, (it had to do with writing on chalkboards and grading papers with red ink pens) and since I figured there were a lot more job openings for elementary teachers than for librarians, I eventually took that path and spent six wonderful years before my own children were born working with second and third graders. Our school librarian was one of my best friends (actually, she still is – sorry, Pam) and although I was happily ensconced in my own classroom, writing on chalkboards and marking papers with red pens, I still envied Pam working with all those books – and ink pads.

There’s a particular scent I will forever associate with libraries. I can close my eyes and smell it now. It’s a book smell, I guess, and it takes me straight back to my childhood summers, when I’d ride my bike to our local branch and spend an hour selecting the piles of books for that week’s enjoyment. Usually they were horse-related, sometimes dogs or wolves, and when I’d exhausted those topics, I moved on to mysteries. Funny how that turned out.

On any sunny summer day, I could be found sitting beneath one of our cherry trees in the back yard, lost in a book. When I finished the stack, I’d load them in my bicycle basket and head for the library once again, eager to find out what exciting adventures awaited me that week.

The libraries of today don’t look a whole lot like the one in my memory. But that’s okay. Everything evolves. I’m just delighted libraries are evolving, too. I don’t want to even think of a day when they’d be gone.

A big thanks to all my librarian friends, and to the kind ones who came to see me at the Penguin booth at the ALA Convention at McCormick Place in Chicago, for making libraries such memorable places. You’re living my fantasy.