This is the second in a series of articles in observance of National Library Week.
In the previous post, I wrote about a young boy who grew up using his home town library, and continued to a lifetime of reading, study and writing. Ray Bradbury’s first library was the city library in Waukegan, Illinois.
Like Mr. Bradbury, early in my reading life I used my home town library, which, like Waukegan’s, was built with a grant from the Carnegie Foundation. It’s still standing, and is still the city’s library, although there has been a large addition to it since I was a kid, and there’s an ambitious plan to expand it further. What was classified as a “town” when I was young soon grew to be a “city,” and, to their credit, the citizens of the place and a very active Library Board have kept the library growing, too.
Here it is in a relatively recent photo:
It opened in 1908, built with a Carnegie grant of $10,000. The city had to fill it with books, staff and operate it, but $10,000 was a significant amount of money more than a century ago. It occupies a prominent place in town, at the southwest corner of the main intersection, cat-a-corner from City Hall.
I remember the steps being much higher, but I was smaller. The doors, though, are still as imposing as ever. I recall my mother taking me up those steps and through those doors to get my first library card. Thanks, Mom.
Rather than tell you more of my own memories of the library, though, I got a note from a friend who was in my class in school. I lived outside town, but Anne T. was a townie, and lived right on Broadway, the street from which the above photo was shot, about 3-1/2 blocks away. I first encountered her in Junior High. She sent me her reminiscence of going to that library as a girl, before I met her.
“I have always loved libraries. I used to pull my red wagon down the sidewalk to the library in Lebanon. Mrs. Bean always had saved some new books for me. I would fill up the wagon, pull it home and dig in. I loved the building and the women who worked there. Still do.”
Anne went on to teach, and then to do demanding work with children who were undergoing cancer treatment and their families. She’s still a fierce reader, a regular library patron in the city where she now lives, and works as a volunteer in a museum library one day a week.
Libraries everywhere in the world continue to give children the opportunity that Anne and I — and probably you — had. She, like me, grew up in a household where she had access to books already, but millions of children do not if there is no library. In addition to books, libraries have another important resource: dedicated people whose names are remembered by those children decades later, as Anne does Mrs. Bean’s.
This is the week to support your local library and thank your librarian, too.
Thank you, Anne. People all over the world are picturing you wheeling your red wagon full of books up Broadway.
© Brad Nixon 2017