Monday, April 5, 2010

Weekly Geeks: A Love Note for the Library

According to the Weekly Geeks, National Library Week is upcoming. Actually, it's next week, as it so happens. As a result, this week's questions are about libraries, or course.

This brings me to my deep, dark book blogger secret. You see, I saw this week's topic "Checking Out Libraries" and thought..."Guess I'm not Weekly Geeking it this week," because...*gasp* I don't use the local libraries. Here, I'll give you a moment to pick your jaw up off the floor and recover from the shock and horror. That's right, I graduated from college in 2006, and I haven't stepped foot in a library ever since but for those ever-ripe opportunities to buy books, the much beloved Friends of the Library book sales. So, you could say, I support my local libraries, but I don't actually use them.

With little hope, then, I read the first question:

What's your earliest memory of a library? What was it like for you? Were you more likely to hang out in the gym or the library when you were in school?

Then I remembered, hey, I haven't always been totally ambivalent about libraries. In fact, when I was a kid, I loved my school libraries. The first library I can really remember vividly is my elementary school library. I was of the lucky class that was the first to spend all four years of our elementary school education in the newly built elementary school, and the library was the centerpiece of that school. It was at the very top of the center staircase. It had fish tanks and big beautiful windows, and, of course, more books than I'd ever seen in one place in all my young life. Of course, I fell in love, and set the lofty goal that I would read all the books there from A to Z. Okay, I may have fallen a little short on that goal, but it definitely set the pace for my reading future.

One of my favorite memories from elementary school were these Friday night things called "Prime Time," where you could bring a big stack of books and a sleeping bag, and I and many of my elementary school classmates would lay on our sleeping bags in the school auditorium and just read for three hours. Almost like a mini Read-a-thon for kids. I can still remember spending Friday nights there in the company of my classmates and a gargantuan stack of books. How nice to have three hours where you were told to come somewhere and just read. To this day, I love the idea of solitary reading being made into a community activity. Guess that goes a long way in explaining my love for book blogging (not to mention the 24 Hour Read-a-thon!).

The middle school library, while not as aesthetically pleasing as the elementary school one, was again the centerpiece of the school. The 5th and 6th grade wing was on one side and the 7th and 8th grade on the other, and there, right in the middle was the library. If I had to pick a place where I really came into my own as a reader, it was in that middle school library, home of untold treasures waiting to be discovered. I read countless books through my middle school years to the exclusion of most other activities. I read new books and classics. Books for kids my age, and books written for a much older audience. The school had a big Accelerated Reader program where you would read books, take multiple choice tests on the computer, and get points. Several of my middle school years, I came away with the most AR points in my grade because of my voracious reading, and reaped all sorts of extraneous rewards, and yet the reading itself was the biggest reward of all. Imagine getting awards, pizza parties, end of year trips to local amusement parks in exchange for doing something you already love! Man, I wish my job was like that.

Now, I must say, I prefer to own my books. In my adult life I hate deadlines and prefer to read a book when and where I choose, and I much prefer to have my very own library than to borrow books from someone else's, especially considering that going to the library is a little more complex and out of the way now than simply walking to the center of the place I spend my days anyway. Despite my lack of interest in public libraries as an adult, I can safely say that I give a lot of credit to my school library system for making me into the reader I am today.

My school always knew that reading belonged at the center, and it still does.


  1. I don't use the library like I used to either. It seems like I would put a few books on hold and they would all come in at one time and all of a sudden I'd have 8 books to read in 2 weeks.

  2. Man, I miss it how grade school rewarded people for reading. That was great, but it gave me a totally unrealistic idea of how highly reading is valued in The Real World. :P

  3. My elementary school had AR! It was so fun. :D Except, I read almost all of the books in the program when I was in 5th grade, so I didn't get nearly as many points in 6th grade because there weren't many tests left for me to take! lol

  4. What a great post, Megan! Sounds like you had some great school libraries. Oh, and the Friday night reading nights...what fun! I would have been in heaven. :D My first memories of a library are of the book mobile...oh, how I loved book mobile day!

    I know what you mean about libraries and deadlines now as an adult though. I go to the library once a week because Annie volunteers there, and I inevitably bring home a lovely pile of books simply because I just *can't* resist all the beauties that catch my eye. But that whole deadline thing kills me, and more books than not go back unread. :(