Libraries have always been my favorite places. They’re always cozy, warm, welcoming, and quiet. You can’t help but feel smarter when you walk into a library. There’s just something inspiring about those huge wooden book cases packed neatly with rows and rows of books and the quiet calm voices people only use at the library, the smell of old musty paper and the sun shining into the room in big strips. Entering a library is like coming home after a long walk in the snow.
One of my first vivid childhood memories is a trip to the library. I was about five years old and excited beyond words by all of the books. I wanted them all. After stacking a precarious pile on the counter, the librarian gently explained the ten book limit on children’s checkouts and helped me narrow down my selection. It was so disappointing, but she did give me my own library card and let me sign the back by myself while explaining I could come back to the library anytime. That library card became my ticket to freedom and I spent my entire childhood trying to read through the entire library. In high school, the library become a den of calm and quiet in my overactive adolescence. I remember seeking out the farthest corner on the top floor, laying on the floor between two giant book cases, positioned like sentinels, as I fell into a world of mystery, romance, religion, and intrigue. At 17, I designed my first tattoo while seated Indian style on the floor in my favorite row, merging a compilation of designs found in a book on ancient written languages. In college, the library became a quiet witness to my struggles with certain courses, the late night study sessions and the occasional naps and breakdowns between the pages of textbooks. The library was the first to know I was in love, the first to know I’d failed an exam, the first time I’d experienced a poetry reading or stopped to really look at a painting as something more than just a pretty picture.
After moving 1200 miles away from home, the library became the first destination I could drive to without referencing handwritten directions. With my first baby, when I knew nothing and felt deeply terrifyingly alone, the library was there like an old mother hen, welcoming us with the silly songs and stories every week at story hour. The library, and its endless supply of books, is an old friend in an apron and floured hands, pulling cookies from the oven.
This then, is my love letter to the library and all of the wonderful books within.