Monday, May 19, 2008

Public Library Memories

I took David to the B.I. Public Library yesterday, so that he could pick up some resources for his homework. We live in a small community, so our county has a regional library system; you can go online and check out books, have them sent to one branch or another, and pick them up where it is best for you. I especially love the one on Bainbridge Island.

My grandmother was a bibliophile. She and my grandfather had a beautiful library in their home, collected books and passed their love of books on to my mother, and to me. I LOVE to read. I remember that, when I was choosing a college, my grandmother (who was on the board of trustees at Mills College for years) advised me to look into each school's library, as that was, to her, an important measure of the college's merit. (This was in the days before personal computers and the internet.)

When our kids were little, I resisted the whole computer-internet thing. Hard to believe now, isn't it? But Gregg and I had the best times of our respective childhoods outdoors, and I was trying so hard to not raise little "couch potatoes." The main reason that we chose the property where we built this house is that it has woods in the back and the beach at the front. We figured that the kids would have no reason to stay indoors! The whole place is made for fun outside, and we hoped that the fresh air and room to roam would stimulate their imaginations and help them to enjoy a healthy and happy life.

I digress. The internet connection that I finally did get was dial-up, and it was awful, unreliable and S-L-O-W. The public library had lots of computers, in addition to a world of books, so I took the children to the library about once a week, where they had about an hour of computer time and unlimited book time. I thought it would teach them about using the property tax dollars that we have already spent (on the library). I also know that if I bought every book that I want to read, we would be broke, so I NEED to use the library, and wanted to show that example to them, as well.

Katie fell in love with the library. She liked being there so much that she said she might like to work there someday, so I suggested that she volunteer. Katie liked that idea. We found out how to apply, and she got a job as a volunteer, one day a week. I think she was in the 4th grade when she started. She was really happy with the work that they gave her to do, and felt very grown-up about it. She walked behind the counter to the staff area, signed in (and out) on her own sheet in the binder, and then went to her "boss" to find out what the tasks were, each time. There was a nice variety of things to do. She was proud of her volunteer job.

When David joined the Honor Society in junior high, he was required to do community service, so he decided to volunteer at the B.I. library, too. This gave Katie the opportunity to be the more experienced sibling, even though she was the youngest. It was pretty cool to see the two of them working for such a great institution, and the staff at the library were marvelous mentors. They never patronized the kids, but treated them with courtesy and respect. I believe that this helped build self-esteem in David and Katie.

While I waited for David yesterday, happy memories of the kids doing their library jobs came back to me. I realized that, though Katie only lived 12 years and 5 months, she did have the satisfaction of applying for, and getting a job. She also had the confidence that came with that achievement, and the joy of giving to her community...which is a good thing, at any age, but to have experienced that by the age of 12, is pretty wonderful.


Diane Walker said...

Ali volunteered at the library, too; now I wonder if she might have actually worked with Katie -- that would be so cool!

I have a library degree, and have worked at 2 libraries, one in NH, and the one on Shaw Island. My mom worked in libraries, too, and some of my fondest early memories are of the tiny little library in Glendale, Ohio, where they finally agreed to let me (a 2nd grader) take out 5th grade books!

Libraries are amazing.

Smileygirl said...

No matter what age, I think libraries instantly take one back to their childhood. I hope they never become obsolete but I'm afraid they don't get the draw they used to nowadays. So good that Katie got to experience and appreciate their worth and actually be a part of working in one.