I loved going to the library when I was younger, about nine or ten. I was a reading fanatic, but I didn’t read just anything I could get my hands on. I didn’t really care for science fiction all that much, although I did get into Ray Bradbury. I had a touch of the macabre in me so I’d scare myself silly with Alfred Hitchcock. I even had a little bit of interest in scripts of radio plays though really, I have no idea why. But give me a good story and I’m yours, baby.
Loved, loved, LOVED every single Mary Poppins book. I remember wondering if she would have approved of me as one of her charges or would she have given me that disapproving sniff that meant you were judged and found wanting. I also visited the Hundred Acre Wood frequently and wished it was as easy to make friends in my vast suburban neighborhood as it was there with Christopher Robin. I devoured all the Oz books, even those not written by L. Frank Baum, because the imagination and fantasy captivated me so completely that I didn’t want to leave those magical lands. Charlotte’s Web. Doctor Doolittle. Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. Then I got more sophisticated, adding Gone With the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the works of Michael Crichton and Fred Mustard Stewart.
As I got older, I returned to the library for homework. It was a wonderful feeling to have my mom or dad drop me off at the library for the day and know that I was surrounded by the vast array of books, the lovely smell of paper and ink and rubber stamps, and the acres of smooth wooden tables that allowed me to spread out all my materials without bothering anyone. I had spiral notebooks for taking down my notes on whatever I was researching, a clipboard of looseleaf paper in case I needed to take notes on the fly while perusing the stacks, freshly sharpened pencils, a pink pearl eraser, medium-point blue Bic pens with the crystal barrels, not the white ones, a navy blue flair pen because you never know when a case of the doodles would strike, and a sandwich and cookies for my break. I was going to research the hell out of that library, and I was going to rock while doing it.
But as I spread my materials out and scoped out the other inhabitants of the library those Saturday mornings, I could actually hear the novels calling me, tempting me away from my important work. I would raise a shoulder up, symbolically turning away from their siren call, and find my gaze fixed out the giant windows, watching the breeze make shifting patterns in the leaves of the trees and placing myself on the ship in Pirates of Oz. I dropped my pencil on the floor, and while retrieving it I see a small button near the table leg and wonder if Arietty dropped it while doing the work of The Borrowers. Mentally shaking myself I hunched over my encyclopedia and other reference sources and tried concentrating again, only to picture myself bound by invisible chains of servitude and becoming Sara Crewe in A Little Princess. This would not do! I had to get to work and I had to stop traveling along the fantastical reaches of my mind.
A visit to the card catalog is definitely in order, sure to help snap my mind back to the realities of my task at hand. Approaching the massive oak drawer unit, with neatly labeled cards and wee curved handles, I am smitten with the sense of order and confidence contained within. Every single piece of information in this vast building of knowledge is contained in these imposing furniture structures and I can access them all! Grabbing my clipboard and Bic with the crystal barrel, I am poised to ascertain with pinpoint accuracy all the locations of every volume of information aiding my research quest. The selected drawer (always at the bottom, why is that?) glides smoothly along its well-worn tracks, and the ivory-colored cards with their typed information wait patiently to be discovered. I flip through them, feeling very professional, reading the brief summary on each card to determine if it’s going to be helpful. I make notes of authors, titles, and locations in the stacks, moving on to other drawers (always on the top, why is that?) until I’ve filled a page.
Now it’s time for the hunt. Silently, I creep into the deep jungle of shelves, sometimes seeing fellow hunters but mostly on a solitary journey as I am camouflaged among the varying heights of the books. I quickly scan the numbers on the backs of the books, matching them with the codes on my clipboard, slipping one slim volume after another into my arms. I have determined that this is a fine beginning, this should take me hours to delve into, when I suddenly find myself in the biography section. A book about Grace Kelly, the princess?
Hmmm…..maybe it’s time for a little break.