by Marilyn Wolpin
I am lucky to live within a five-mile radius of three libraries – each in a different town. I use my computer to find the books I’m looking for and usually locate most of them in one of the three. Once a week I visit at least two of these libraries to pick up the children’s books I’ve ordered and drop off the ones I’ve read. This past week something happened at one of those libraries that shook my world.
A tall, dark man walked in carrying a small ginger-haired child. An older woman came as well. I assumed the man was the father and the woman the grandmother to this not more than three-year-old girl. The man went up to the librarian and without much of a discernable accent asked the librarian how to use the library.
Just drink that in for a moment. A person in our world who does not know how to use a library. Where in this world had he lived without one?
The librarian stepped away from her plexiglass enclosure and showed the family around. “These are the new books,” she said, indicating a row of child-level bins. “These are the board books,” she said, pointing out the room with a table and chairs.
“What are board books?” the man inquired.
Of course, I don’t need to tell you what they are. But again, drink that in. This family had lived in a world where there were no board books.
As the librarian finished her tour, the man spoke to his mother in a language I did not recognize (and I recognize a lot of languages). So I knew where they weren’t from: Europe, Japan, China, Israel, Russia, South America.
As I left with the ton of books I checked out (see previous TBR post), I noted the family seated in the board book room, child on daddy’s lap drinking in the wonders that are children’s books. What must this family think? There are places in America where you can just sit at your leisure and look at books? Impossible! Places you can go, show a tiny card and freely pick out books and take them home? Unbelievable! This has been possible all my life. I cannot imagine a world where it is not.
But where this family came from, it was not possible. Drink that in. No libraries all their lives. No place of delight and magic for child or adult.
I will no longer take libraries for granted. We are lucky. We are blessed.
Cherish and support your local library.