Summertime Back in the Day – Public Libraries

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Back in the day, my summers as an elementary school kid were spent holed up at the public library, in front of stacks of picture books that I dove into with reckless abandon.

Once I was older, I devoured books from The Babysitter’s Club series whole, feeling as if I were part of their crew.

It made the oppressively hot days much more bearable under the frosty AC, surrounded by shelf after shelf of all kinds of books. I wanted to read them all, even if it took me decades or my entire lifetime and soon found myself wandering off to explore the different sections beyond my age group.

I’d skim through books about astronomy, psychology, and medicine, absorbing the bits and pieces that I could comprehend, and storing them like precious nuggets of gold in a special compartment of my brain.

Lately, I’ve been getting emails about happenings at some of the libraries nearby and if it wasn’t for COVID, I’d stop in after work to check it out and take it all in. Do kids even spend their summer days at the library anymore? It’s hard to believe that I’d be there entire days, basically every day of the week – but I never really grew tired of it until I was in my late teens/early 20s.

The library was a sanctuary for me, where I could be free to sit and let my imagination wander while immersing myself in a great story. It was where I grew to appreciate silence (with the occasional flip of a page from one corner of the library or the other) and learned that there was a whole big world outside of the tiny one I inhabited.

At the library, I was surrounded by like-minded kids and got to embrace being a tomboy bookworm who adored music and books instead of chastising myself for not being a normal girly-girl who was into cheerleading or clothes.

I participated in reading contests (which I always won!), arts and crafts projects (even though I couldn’t draw to save my life), and got to play Where in the World is Carmen San Diego on the bulky PC computer (by feeding a large, yellow floppy disk into the noisy hard drive).

I spent countless happy days at the public library, and I even thought of becoming a librarian myself. Ultimately, I wanted nothing more than to see one of my own books wedged into the stacks, so I stuck with wanting to be a writer instead. I plan to stop into that library sometime soon again, since it’s been over 15 years from when I last walked into it.

While I expect a lot of changes, I know that there is bound to be one or two surviving relics from the past in there. I’m hoping it’ll be one of the tiny children’s tables that I sat at, wearing my favorite t-shirt, while taking in the brightly colored book bindings on the shelves.

Despite my longer limbs, I’ll gladly take a seat at that table again, to absorb the pleasant memories created, like drops of water hydrating a parched, world-weary soul.

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