why i like libraries

as i embark on this very fledgling career search into the world of libraries, i have been thinking about libraries, and why i like them so much.

Prescott Elementary School (Lincoln, NE)

Prescott Elementary School (Lincoln, NE)

it began when i was very young

i remember my elementary school library, those tingly moments when our classes would visit the library and you could check books out and take them home.

i was drawn to what seemed like a very long inside wall of library shelves, full of books — not sure if i found it myself or if a librarian helped me. i can still see the books lining the shelves. it was where all of the fiction books were. it was like a wall of comfort. a well that i could go back to and draw upon endlessly….

one moment stands out: the excitement of seeing a series of books by Beverly Cleary about a girl i loved named Ramona.

Ramona

Ramona

Ramona always seemed to be getting into trouble, but i just loved her. and there were a whole bunch of books about Ramona and her adventures. the pictures were vivid and funny, and i could relate to a dark haired girl with a passion for life.

it wasn’t just the words or the story. it was the actual book — which looked a lot like the old yellow book above. it was something about the library bindings of many of the books in the series. how tough they were, with thick colorful designs. how they smelled, how the pages felt when i turned the pages.

and then it was the worlds that opened up to me. the library became a place where i could escape into my own personal visions of these stories in my head. i felt so connected to those worlds, these people, and those flickering images inside my brain.

but it may have started even earlier

but now i look back, i think it may have started even earlier, when i was in kindergarden. my brother and sister and i went to a Montessori school that was in a church in what we then thought of as West Omaha. laughable now because it was only at 72nd and Dodge Streets, and Omaha has quadrupled in size since then.

i was only 4 or 5 years old when i was at Montessori, around 1971 i think, but i remember the workbooks — and the nuns in their habits walking with purpose down the halls.

the school is no longer there but i remember the workbooks i raced through like they were candy, gobbling up words and images. it was so much fun to go as slowly or as quickly as i wanted through each workbook as i learned the alphabet and words. as i browsed through the shelves of workbooks, as i progressed, the world flowered, opening up. it was the BEST kind of fun. such fun!

Me at Montessori pre-school in Omaha

Me at Montessori pre-school in Omaha

an example of “Such Fun!” and another great character who is always getting into scrapes, Miranda, played by Miranda Hart, who makes me laugh, and who i love for being just who she is: brilliant and herself. SUCH FUN!

$5 a book

when we were growing up my brother and sister and i were lucky enough to get an allowance from our father. our dad wanted to encourage us to read, so he would take us to Kieser’s Bookstore in downtown Omaha near his office, or W. Dale Clark Library, also downtown. we could read one book and get an extra $5. it was a pretty big deal.

i remember those $5 books vividly, because i always wanted to try an ambitious book. one of my favorite books was My Ántonia by Willa Cather.

My Ántonia by Willa CatherThis was the edition that i read

My Ántonia by Willa Cather
This was the edition that i read

My Ántonia was set in Nebraska, so although i lived in big cities (Lincoln and Omaha), i knew it was my home state. the girl, Ántonia, lived in a sod house on the prairie with her family. that was always fascinating to me, that you could live underground like that. it seemed so fantastical.

Willa Cather as a little girl

Willa Cather as a little girl
images from the wonderful The Willa Cather Archive at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

but really, for me, My Ántonia was another story about a young girl grappling with the world and forces around her that were often outside of her control. which was another reason that it was so important to me.

checking library books out

but even as a young kid i never wanted to own every book i read. i only wanted to own my favorite books. but i wanted to READ just about everything i could get my hands on.

i liked the idea of reading every book in a series, like the Nancy Drew books, exhaustively. but going to the library and checking them out, then bringing them back and getting more — that was bliss. and i could only do that at this magical place, the library.

The Secret in the Old Attic
(Nancy Drew Mystery Stories)

The Scarlet Slipper Mystery
(Nancy Drew Mystery Stories)

The Secret of the Old Clock
(Nancy Drew Mystery Stories)

just a beginning…

this is early days yet. a beginning of me thinking about why i love libraries, how they have enriched my life and made me the person i am today.

i am going to keep thinking about why i love libraries so much. there’s so much more there. i am pretty sure one of the reasons why i love movies so much is that they are like books that have come to life. and most library people i know love movies too. that is for another discussion. 🙂

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About Erika Herzog

big music fan. used to work in the movie business a little bit. love weaving and knitting. own a banjo. haven't picked up the corn cob pipe. yet.

Posted on December 17, 2012, in childhood, library love. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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