Within the last couple of weeks I have become friends again with a number of junior and high school friends from my old home town- thanks to the power of Facebook. A week-long nostalgia trip has followed, as I have emailed and online chatted with people I haven’t seen or spoke to in more than 20 years (25, in most cases- the reunion was a couple of months ago.) It’s been amazing to look and see how they looked then, how they look now, and what they’ve accomplished in the meantime.
The virtual hometown visit also made me think about my hometown library. Frequently on this blog I’ve posted links to articles written by authors, scientists and other public figures where they recollect the importance that their first library had one the path their life has taken, and we often write about the broad impact of library services in communities and schools, but we’ve never really tried to collect or present the individual stories and recollections that are just as important.
My first library- Stockingford Branch Library- used to be right here. It’s been replaced sometime in the last couple of decades with the house on the left in the map view above. It was the quintessential old-fashioned library. A wooden building with heavy lead-panelled doors opening into a quiet, well lit room full of nothing but books. The librarian’s desk was just to the right as you entered, with the array of tiny folders holding the cards from the books you checked out, the card catalog, and the other essentials of organization that have migrated online by now. What hasn’t ever- can’t ever- be digitized is the uncritical assistance and support that the library staff gave to my interests and explorations as a child, the time when we begin to chart the potential of a lifetime of learning and discovery.
The distance between school and home was probably about a mile, so the library was almost exactly half way and a perfect stopping-off point on cold or rainy days. Feel free to walk around the neighborhood- if you head North on Cross Street all the way to the the intersection with Haunchwood Road, you can see my old house!
Later on, I moved away from this part of town and started to use the much bigger town library (now the Town Library and Information Centre), but the Stockingford Branch Library will always remain close to my heart- it’s my very own Platonic Ideal of what a library should be. Although I do recognize that the adaptations it would have needed to transition to the current age were probably far beyond its capacity to realize. The new Stockingford Early Years Center and Library, about a half-mile away replaced the old branch, and is very different by the looks of things!
Can you find your first library on google maps and post it in the comment section? How has it changed, if it has survived at all, and what did it mean to you?