Skip to main content


July 1, 2005

Library Memories

Posted by admin

Last Sunday I had the pleasure of hearing Nancy Pearl, the author of BOOK LUST and MORE BOOK LUST give a speech at the American Library Association Conference. She talked about her lifelong love of reading that started in the library in her town when she was a girl.

It got me to thinking back to my library when I was a child. I grew up in Bloomfield, New Jersey. The library was downtown on a main street. I remember the children's services were downstairs and the adult services were upstairs for many years. I can recall the blonde wood of the bookshelves, the card catalog case, the green vinyl chairs for "comfortable reading" and the bespectacled (always bespectacled) librarians. I can remember the shelves where my favorite books were. I can picture crouching down to find my favorite books by Ruth Wolfe. From across the room I could tell you if A TRACE OF FOOTPRINTS was in stock. I loved that library.

Eventually the town raised money for a new adult library and a HUGE building was constructed for this about 50 feet from the old space. The children's library moved upstairs and the basement rooms became meeting rooms. I remember being so happy to move to this new space when I was old enough. Sure, I loved the charm of the old space, but there was something about graduating to this new venue that was just amazing to me. There were two floors --- and a balcony. I think I could draw a diagram of where each section was even today. And this is many years later.

In this library I did hours and hours of research on Simon and Garfunkel. Go ahead and laugh at this. I seriously spent hours in front of the microfiche reading old articles about them and remember spending dimes that I had hoarded to print these same pieces. I joke that I honed all my research skills with S&G. I learned about the New York Times Guide to Articles as well as other vast volumes of catalogued research work. I also learned how to write great bibiliography notes. When I was old enough I would take the bus downtown to hang out at the library. It was very grownup to do this!

Bloomfield also had a bookmobile. I remember running down the street when the bookmobile pulled up and waiting on line to get in. I can remember the hum of the generator. And there too, I can remember where the books were shelved. I also can remember being asked by a librarian if my mother knew I was reading a certain book one week. Who remembers what it was. I remember responding, "Oh, yes." I also remember thinking it would be very cool to be the person who drove the bookmobile. Of course, I was the same child who wanted a Country Squire station wagon with wood on the side for our family car. I know, such strange ideas I had. We never had that station wagon, which is probably why today I drive an SUV.

On that bookmobile I found more books to keep me reading all summer long. And I can remember checking those books out and as the stamp hit each card, I knew I was closer to reading a book I wanted to read. It was heaven.

We moved to Cedar Grove, New Jersey when I was in high school. The only thing I missed from my old town was the library. This one was not as large. Sure they could borrow things from other branches, but that was not the same. In high school I spent a lot of time in the Montclair Library, which was HUGE. Whoa. Once again it was a library like Bloomfield, but even cooler since it was older and had an attitude from that.

The town I live in now has a friendly library. My sons love to go there. I spend many nights at the checkout counter talking books with the librarians. Since I started this company books arrive at the office, so I do not have that same need to run to the library (in fact, friends tell me my house is better stocked than the library with no fines or waiting lists). I do always check what is on the reserved shelf and I love to see my favorite books and authors there.

One weekend I took my sons to the main branch in our county. It was huge. They literally stopped in the doorway and gazed around mesmerized by all the books. I knew that look so well. Which is why I still try to get there when we can. It's more impersonal than the town branch, but oh, those books!

The one library I never warmed up to was the library at Fordham University where I went to college. I loved the architecture of it, but it seemed too quiet, too impersonal, too structured, with too many rules. I think I went there less than 20 times in all my years at college. Instead I would spend time in the bookstore. I loved that place. It's interesting on how a place can have a mood that makes all the difference.

Would love to hear about your own library experiences. Drop me a note and share.