Wednesday Words 1.27.16

"Libraries raised me."
 --Ray Bradbury



Photos taken from the ground-floor lobby of the magnificent public library in Vancouver (WA).

Let’s talk about libraries. Do you have a favorite one? Do you have a good library story? A favorite quotation about libraries? What do libraries mean to you?

21 thoughts on “Wednesday Words 1.27.16

  1. Kathy says:

    I love libraries! When I travel I like to visit the local libraries. I love my library. I’ve lived in my town since I was 8. First, we had a book mobile. That was so much fun! Then the library was in a house. I remember walking down the creaky stairs to get to the children’s section. I did all of my fourth grade “reports” at a table down there – one about the eye and one about cats, I particularly remember.

    Then they built a whole new library with big, vaulted ceilings and large glass windows that let in so much light. I remember looking up Freud in the card catalog for a school paper.

    Two of my kids were photographed for the local paper in our library – can’t remember now for what. I’ll have to find that clipping. The kids would always play on the hill with the pine trees right outside, after a visit.

    Then the library expanded AGAIN! And now, they are just coming to the end of another remodel. And next year they will be adding a cafe as well!

    We go at least once a week. I always check out way too many books – but I do end up reading a couple of them. I also use the Overdrive app for listening to books on walks and as I fall asleep. I just finished “Murder on the Orient Express” and now I’m listening to “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage.” I’m reading a book about scientific origin myths – can’t remember the title though.

    I’m so thankful, truly, to have such a great library system. There is no way I would be able to afford to read the way I NEED to read otherwise.

    • Sarah says:

      “I’m reading a book about scientific origin myths – can’t remember the title though.” — Please try to remember, because I would really like to read that! πŸ™‚

    • Rita says:

      Oh, me too! I have paid more than I care to know in library overdue fines, but I always tell myself I could never buy all the books I’ve read for what I’ve paid in fines, and I never feel (too) badly about paying my fines down. I love the idea of a library that’s in a house. A children’s section in the downstairs of a house seems like the perfect setting for a creepy/scary story. πŸ™‚

  2. Katherine says:

    My love of libraries started in elementary school, with our slightly wacky librarian. She would read Roald Dahl out loud to us using all of the voices and everything and we just thought she was incredible.

    After I finished grad school and all of the required reading for that I was pretty thrilled to rediscover the library. And, of course, having kids means I love it and a whole other way. Right now our library will generate suggestions for you based on books that you tell them you enjoyed. I presumed this was some sort of algorithm, like Amazon does. I was so delighted to get a personal email from Haley, our librarian, recommending several books that she personally thought I might enjoy. And she was right!

    We just left town for a week and I had to make sure I stopped at the library before we got on the road.
    Katherine recently posted…β€œI’ll make some tea”My Profile

    • Rita says:

      OK, I want a library with a Haley! Although the Multnomah County Library system now has a service like that you can request. You just fill out a questionnaire and a librarian will make recommendations for you. Sounds less algorithmic and more human, which appeals to me. I think I might have to try it and see what I get. I’m having a hard time finding fiction I like lately. And as for kids–yes. I just loved taking mine there when they were little. It was one of our favorite outings.

  3. Marian says:

    I am in awe of the gorgeous architecture in the Vancouver, WA library … !!

    Oh, libraries! I’ve harboured dreams of being a librarian ever since I was a child. For me, it’s not just about the books, though; I think it’s the quiet — the air of contemplativeness, the hush that feels as though you could actually reach out and touch it — that also speaks very deeply to me. Libraries, to me, are a place of peace.

    Going to the library was one of my favourite things to do with my kids when they were young, although I do have to say we also spent more than our fair share of time at the local Barnes and Noble bookstore (it was a shorter distance to drive and I did really enjoy buying books for the kids, although we weren’t the best customers and didn’t buy something each and every visit). Our use of the public library lessened quite a bit when the kids went to school and began to bring home books from the school library (and I finally got to make (somewhat) good on my librarian dreams by volunteering there), but since moving here, 5 years ago, we’ve gotten more fully back into the “habit” of using our library. Our local branch is situated right beside the elementary school (a 7 minute walk from our house), and it’s so convenient to just pop in to browse, or to pick up something that I’ve reserved, but it’s also a treat to go there because it’s just so quaint!! It’s located in an historical mansion, and when I first laid eyes upon it when we came here on our house-hunting trip it kinda sorta took my breath away, and I just *knew* that the library would once again become more of a “feature” in our lives, and indeed, it has πŸ™‚ .
    Marian recently posted…Kingston and Kondo and Seeing StuffMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      I was in awe of that library’s design, too. It was built in 2011, so it’s quite new. The design was very functional and smart. There were quiet places and collaborative places on each floor. The children’s section was amazing. It was so different from the quiet libraries I grew up in. But, even though I love what modern libraries are evolving into, I also really like libraries of old, too. One of my best library experiences was in the rare book room at the graduate library of the University of Washington. I had need to use a rare book once as an undergrad. They escorted me to a table, where I could have only paper and a pencil. They brought the book to me. The room was at the top of the building, and had huge ceilings and large windows. I felt like I was in church. A highlight of my time there, for sure.

      I’m a little envious of your library in a mansion within walking distance! I would be there all the time…

  4. Sarah says:

    I have to confess that I do not care for the highfalutin’ Seattle (central) library.

    My favorite and most significant libraries are probably the ones at my college, especially the science library, which had a bunch of comfy chairs next to a bank of tall windows that looked out over the woods. There were bird feeders outside the windows, too. So that was its own kind of library there outside.

    I like the double meaning of the Ray Bradbury quote — not just that libraries raised him (the way a parent might), but also perhaps that they lifted him up. Spiritually speaking. You know?
    Sarah recently posted…My home this season: January 2016My Profile

    • Rita says:

      I do know–it’s why I like the quotation, too.

      Well, I fell in love with the high falutin’ main library when I visited it a few years ago. But I also used to love all the small branch libraries in old Carnegie buildings. For a few years spent quite a bit of time at the one in the U district, near an old theater I used to love, too. I’m sure it’s all changed now, but I have such fond memories of going there on warm summer evenings. There was a scent in that building that took me back to childhood in the best way. I think it’s the smell of the glue they used to repair books with. I think of it now as old library book smell. I never catch it from new books, only from the oldest ones in the libraries I work in now.

      Love that image of the bird feeders as a different kind of library. And of tall windows that look out into woods. In high school I worked at the Burien library, which was a very modern building nestled into a wooded park. The back walls were mostly window, and they were surrounded by tall firs. I loved going back into those stacks.

  5. Kate says:

    Oh….libraries are my favorite. All the books and knowledge and structure. I (like Marian) have wanted to be a librarian since I was a child – it was one of my favorite games to play and I actually DID create library cards and a filing system for my books when I was in elementary school.

    As for favorites, I have so many. There was a children’s library in Kalamazoo, MI that my mom would take me to while she was finishing her teaching degree and I don’t know if it was part of the college or the city library system – but it had a sarcophagus in this dimly lit room and I just loved going – not just for books but because I could see the “mummy”. I was only 5 but I remember that library! The other was in Shelby, MI. I used to bike the 7 miles (each way!) in the summers (starting in 7th grade) two or three times a week and I would load up on books. I can still remember the smell of that place and the drinking fountain that clanged and was soooo cold and had the best tasting water. I actually wrote my MLIS entrance essay on that library. Card catalogs and sound of the due date stamps. Oh, I miss it.

    I loved the Algoma, WI library because the librarian there noticed my love of suspense and introduced me to “Rebecca” which is one of my all time favorites. I loved the Madison, WI city library because it lent me Bukowski, and Hesse, and Vonnegut when I needed those angsty writers but couldn’t afford to buy books other than textbooks.

    And Hackley. The first library card I ever had came from Hackley Public Library. We only lived in Muskegon for a short time, but it was such a cool library – the woodwork is breathtaking. I actually purchased one of their card catalogs about 6 years ago. To date it’s the most expensive piece of “furniture” in my home and I absolutely love it.

    This makes me want to write a blog post about libraries now. πŸ™‚

    • Rita says:

      I want to read that post! Your comment is making me think about what it would be like to write an autobiography focused on libraries. It’s surprising how much they would reveal about those of us who use them the way we do. I’m thinking back now, and I can attach libraries to every place I’ve lived and every stage of life. Maybe I’ll write that…

  6. Nina says:

    I am so grateful for the entire library system in Minneapolis. It’s quite amazing. (And love that you can return to any one. That you can just reserve what you want and it arrives–eventually–on a little shelf with your number at whichever library you choose.)

    • Rita says:

      It is the same with our library system. It’s such a great resource, and one that I’m grateful for, too. In ours, you can even have the items mailed to you.

    • Rita says:

      I imagine that you are busy looking around no matter where you are. πŸ™‚ There is a branch of the library near me that I initially dismissed because it is in a strip mall. So, absolutely no exterior charm. But, the whole front wall is window. (Yes, it looks out onto a parking lot and a bunch of garish chain restaurants and such. Again, no charm.) And the furniture inside is very modern-cool. The books are fabulous. The best part? It is always full of people, and the staff is super-friendly. I’ve come to love it, and to learn that I can’t judge a library by its cover. I’m wondering if your library needs to do more with what’s happening inside the walls, too.

  7. Laura says:

    After thinking of my two favorite library places, I realize that they’ve stood as places of refuge for me when I really needed a sense of quiet permanence. The public library where I grew up had a chilly and dusty periodical room in the basement, with an old cracked leather arm chair shoved down at the end of an aisle where they kept all the back issues of New Yorker magazine. It was my favorite place as a pre-teen when I felt exhausted by the heat of summer and by life. The chair was out of sight of nagging adults, and the New Yorker was my window on a world that seemed to elude me completely, being a 12-year-old in growing up in not-so-sophisticated Iowa.

    My other favorite library place is the old foyer of the Iowa State University library, where there is a giant multi-panel Grant Wood mural called “When Tillage Begins, Other Arts Follow.” As a student I’d park myself on the benches in this passage and let my mind empty of term papers and tests and stupid college boys, and try to regain some equilibrium in the midst of the campus chaos.

    • Rita says:

      I suspect the librarians had a soft spot for the 12-year-old reading back issues of The New Yorker. I like the idea that libraries are places of quiet permanence. They are important for so many reasons, aren’t they? Not just the books and information. I came to really understand that when I worked in a public library as a teen.

  8. Lisa says:

    Considering that Orange County has a larger population than 16 states, I find our library system to be….not as good as it could be. The locations are old but nice (if heavy on the 1970s brutalist buildings), the librarians are helpful, they run a ton of community programs….and there are not enough books. I have never once been able to get a book I want on the first try. I can order it on an interlibrary loan with a four week wait, or I can put my name on the waiting list to read their ONE copy of the newest book, which they get six months after it comes out. (I find their inability to get newly released books in a timely manner really irritating.) I was #457 on the list to borrow the Hunger Games. Even their digital books have a wait list. My library actually has a RENTAL list for new titles (7 days for $1.50), which while certainly cheaper than buying the book, still misses the point of getting a book from the library. I get it, it makes them money while encouraging quick turnover for the next person, but the fact remains that they only get ONE COPY of popular books.

    However, one town over, in Newport Beach, there is an unbelievable library. Newport has opted out of the Orange County library system to build their own library, which is a marvel of modern architecture, meant to look like waves, I think. ( It is on a hill with a view of the ocean, sits next to hiking trails, and has ALL THE BOOKS. Best part, anyone in Orange County can get a library card, not just Newport residents. I tend to go the Irvine library first, because it is next door to my kid’s school and thus I am within 10 feet of it on a daily basis, but if I really want something, I go to Newport.

    If I had to choose between being trapped in a library or trapped in a grocery store, I’d probably pick the library.
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    • Rita says:

      You are making me even more grateful for my library system–and reminding me that I take it for granted. Your comment got me to go searching for information about how libraries rank, and I see that the library system I use now (Multnomah) gets a 5-star rating and the one I grew up in (King County in Washington) has a 4-star rating from Library Journal. Your Newport Library has a 3-star rating. (You can see all of them here: Portland is a town of bookophiles (is that a word?)and I’m guessing that has something to do with support for our libraries; maybe it’s all the rain? One of my favorite features of our library are Lucky Day books. Those are the most popular new books; you can check out up to two at a time, and there are always multiple copies of them. I’m so sorry you have to wait so long. Maybe you should move to Oregon? πŸ™‚

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