National Library Week is April 9-15, 2017. To celebrate, I’d like to share a special story.
My dad wasn’t a reader.
I don’t mean he couldn’t read. He just didn’t read for pleasure. He read for information, to gain knowledge, to figure out how to do something. As far as I know, he never once borrowed a book from any library.
And yet he understood my love of books and the library. From the time I learned to read, I hungered for new books. I would bring home the little Scholastic book pamphlets from school and pour over them, checking off all the books I wanted and confidently handing them to him. He never said no, no matter how tight the budget was.
Then we moved to a lovely little town called Cheshire and I discovered the Cheshire Public Library.
I was nine years old. I couldn’t go to the library unless someone drove me. And there was Dad, driving me to the library after he got out of work, dropping me off while he ran to the store to pick up a few things, waiting in the parking lot while I scanned the shelves looking for a Nancy Drew that I hadn’t read yet. Like the Scholastic book pamphlets, he never said no when I asked to go to the library.
He almost never came inside. He told me I was responsible for keeping track of the books I borrowed and when they were due. He was responsible for getting me to the library so I could borrow and return materials.
Then came one cold night in October when I was twelve years old. Dad was waiting in the library parking lot for me while I selected some books. When I got back to the car, he was shaking. He told me he couldn’t seem to get warm. The next day he suffered his first stroke. He was thirty-nine.
He recovered, but it was six weeks before we could return to the library. I was apprehensive. For the first time in my life I had overdue library books. I had a little babysitting money but I had no idea how much I owed. I was truly afraid they wouldn’t let me borrow any more books.
To my surprise, my dad came into the library with me. He handed the overdue books to the librarian, took out his wallet and said, “I was sick and couldn’t bring these back.” He smiled at me. “It wasn’t her fault.”
The librarian asked what had happened and he told her about his stroke. She asked us to wait and vanished into a back room. She returned with a smile.
“No charge,” she said. “The library has a heart.”
That was a big deal. My dad was now unemployed because of his health. We didn’t have a lot of spare money.
My father walked out of the library that day smiling. He said, “There are still good people in the world.”
I had already decided I wanted to be a librarian. I couldn’t imagine a career that didn’t somehow involve books. But that librarian’s kindness made me realize what a difference a librarian could make in someone’s day.
Three years later, I was hired as a library page at the Cheshire Library. The librarian who had been so kind to us was no longer there. I never even knew her name, and she never knew how much her action meant to me.
We all make a difference each day, even if we don’t know it.
In honor of National Library Week and the librarian who made a young girl happy a long time ago, here are some of my favorite children’s books about libraries and librarians:
The Library Lion by Michele Knudsen.
A lion starts visiting the local library but runs into trouble as he tries to both obey the rules and help his librarian friend.
The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter.
When war comes, Alia Muhammad Baker, the librarian of Basra, fears the library will be destroyed, so she asks government officials for help, but they refuse, which means Alia must take matters into her own hands to protect the books that she loves.
Library Lil by Suzanne Williams. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg.
A formidable librarian makes readers not only out of the once resistant residents of her small town, but out of a tough-talking, television-watching motorcycle gang as well.
Mrs. Roopy is Loopy by Dan Gutman.
A.J. and his classmates are convinced that the new school librarian, Mrs. Roopy, has multiple personality disorder because she keeps pretending to be famous people.
The Library by Sarah Stewart.
Elizabeth Brown loves to read more than anything else, but when her collection of books grows and grows, she must make a change in her life.