Towers of shelves, lined with books, wind around this labyrinth of story. A hushed reverence for the magical journeys, lifelong quests, and treasures of life’s wisom settles in the room like a fog over the ocean. Fantastical moments transpire here. Lifetime friends connect here. Foes are conquered, love is discovered, and battles are fought and won. And all of this happens here, at the library. All between the pages of a book.
Some of my happy childhood memories are of libraries. Wandering through the aisles of shelves much taller than I was, with books as far as my eyes could see, never felt ordinary or dull. Instead, it felt like magic.
My mom tells the story of the librarians granting me special persmission to attend story time when I was only two years old, even though the minimum age was three. My older sister went, and the librarians invited me, because I sat so still and listened so attentively. And I am sure my mom was thrilled for those extra few minutes to wander the aisles and choose books for herself!
As an adult, I still love the library. To me, it is the ultimate expression of leisure time. Browsing rows upon rows of books, with pratically no limit to what I can bring home, offers endless opportunities, rivaling the Goldan Corral buffet. Where else can you leave with a huge stack of adventures, life lessons, self-help, and other worlds to explore, without even spending a dime?
Sadly, too few young people know this special thrill. Even as a high school English teacher, I have to admit that young people today are relunctant readers. And with Netflix, you tube, video games, and a dozen other digital options, who can blame them? I tell my students often (to which they offer only perplexed glances) that I am so glad I was not born in the digital age. My childhood revolved around three channels on the television, with no remote — a student asked me one day what on earth we did without a television remote. I said, “We walked across the living room and turned the channel knob on the television.” They were stunned. Mortified, even. And what about rotary phones? I remember clearly when we finally got a touch tone phone. We thought we had hit the big time. As a teenager, we had our first microwave and VCR. Our family’s first personal computer was a Commodore 64. And who can forget Atari?
Our options for entertainment were limited. But nothing could beat flopping across my bed during a lazy afternoon and devouring a novel. All these decades later, leisure reading still gives me that same feeling — pure delight, and a quiet satisfaction, entering new places, meeting new friends, discovering new truths. Experiences I may never have in “real life” I have had between the pages of a book. And that is still one of my very favorite places to be.