“A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.”
Henry Ward Beecher
I place my selections on the high formica countertop then fumble for my library card. I pull out a tattered and peeling faded orange card. The edges are frayed. The number is barely readable. The librarian attempts to flatten the card then scan…flatten…smooth…try to scan again…it goes on this way for a few moments. When she finally gives up out of frustration, she types in the long code of numbers which is so linked to my very body and soul. After this somewhat lengthy process, she inquires if she might give me a new library card? No! Absolutely not. Mine has character. And when I pull it out it announces that I, Paris Woodhull, am head-over-heels infatuated with the Lawson McGhee library in Knoxville, Tennessee. Of course I don’t say this, but I politely decline the offer.
I remember quite clearly the day I got my first library card. In order to check books out, I had to be able to write my own name. So I walked into the downtown cement castle of books, asked for a card and signed my name in a wobbly script. With books piled high in my arms, I walked out of the library feeling like I was now a “big girl.”
The library is the epitome of love and community. It’s where sharing begins. The library demonstrates that by sharing, things multiply.
I love the faces that I see when I enter the library, all the librarians I’ve known since the beginning, all the readers, even the homeless who rest from their struggles. I love being surrounded by readers. It gives me a sense of warmth and hope.
Sounds. Words. The smell of books and old carpeting. I love to check out a book and find the cover worn or ripped…perhaps several dog-eared pages or underlined fragments. Someone before me spent time with that same book. Carried it back to their home. Perhaps they made a cup of tea. Maybe Apricot, their cat, came and snuggled on their belly as they cracked open the book that I’m now grasping. Those impressions on the book show thought and make me feel that somewhere in the world there are still people who enjoy the library as much as I do.
I think the library is the most romantic place to be. It’s real. It’s solid. And it will never leave my side.