Since 1958, libraries have thrown themselves – and you – a party in April. Happy National Library Week! The Founding Fathers recognized an informed citizenry as the backbone of a democracy. And our public libraries and schools were born. As Jefferson wrote “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”
But this post is about the personal library experience, the private celebration. Our State Librarian, Annie Norman, often shares articles/books that catch her interest. Enter Susan Olding’s essay, Library Haunting. First published in Canada’s The New Quarterly, we discovered the work in the Utne Reader. Take a look; see if Ms. Olding captures your thoughts as she did ours. For instance: “But enter a library, and we lose our hard surfaces and become porous, like paper waiting for ink. We breathe in the smell, that sweet intermingling of must and glue, and our troubles melt away. Our despair at the desk when the words wouldn’t come; our irritation at an imagined slight or a telephone that rang and rang; our sore back—all forgotten. Here, in the hush of the stacks, we can forget the day’s indignities; here, we can recover our curiosity and hope.”
And while we all acknowledge that libraries exist today without walls – a good thing -consider this. “Perhaps the library is better thought of as an idea—or an ideal—than as a physical place. Or is it? I remember my daughter’s small fingers closing around her first library card, the gleam of pride in her eyes as she fingered its surface, scored with the letters of her own name. To be the holder of a library card is to take an early step toward citizenship. Before the bank account, before the driver’s license…or the opportunity to vote, comes the chance to advertise one’s curiosity to the world.” A very good thing.