Thursday, April 28, 2016

For Love of Libraries

This was originally a piece I wrote for the Wichita Public Library. I love sharing my passion for books!

My Grammie taught me to love aisles of books by taking me along to her "li-ber-dee-dee" before I could pronounce it. I used to imitate the way my elementary school librarian read to us, the way she wore her reading glasses. After my parents pulled me out of school, the public library was a magical passage to other times, places, and knowledge. That my mom saw its treasures as potentially dangerous added to the thrill. The day I got to wield the "date due" stamp while assisting a church librarian, I felt I'd arrived. Another church we attended met in a rural school library, I read titles whenever my attention drifted, and the Harry Potter poster behind the preacher. I took my baby sisters to the public library, introducing them to my favorite characters. Lyle the Crocodile. Curious George. Amelia Bedelia. Years later, I stole time with a library book while my own children were in Sunday School.

Libraries have always felt safe to me, hushed retreats from too many people, havens when adjusting to an unfamiliar place. From Oklahoma, Illinois, and North Dakota to the southern Philippines, I always found the libraries. So when I moved to Wichita as a new bride, the library was a natural place to seek the books that had always my best friends and mentors.

Over the last fifteen years, I've moved....
from cookbooks and John Grisham and theology
                          to politics and parenting and dinosaurs,
from Dr Seuss and childbirth and American history
                          to education and neuroscience and trauma recovery,
from memoirs and Bill Peet and Tolstoy
                          to the history of Palestine and the meaning of marriage,
from Agatha Christie and ancient mythology
                          to binge-reading Margaret Atwood
                                       to Neil Gaiman
                                                    to Furiously Happy
                                                                 to Kansas geology.

Flannery O'Connor blew my mind open in the best possible way.
Arnold Lobel's Frog & Toad are part of my romantic history.
Craig Thompson's graphic novel Blankets healed portions of my soul
And Shalom Auslander made me laugh till I couldn't breathe.

Via audiobooks, David McCullough and Neil Simon kept us company on cross-country road trips.

The films we've borrowed--on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray--have brought us together, made us feel, and shown us what we value.

I've frequented the Wichita library at half a dozen locations and volunteered at my local branch.

I love new books, classic books, picture books, and banned books.

I love the smell and feel of dead trees coming alive with meaning again in my hands.
My husband prefers to receive his stories wirelessly as 1's and 0's.
My children, all avid readers, are well-acquainted with books in both forms.
The summer reading program has been part of their lives as long as they can remember.

The riches that are the Wichita Public Library taught me to dream and enabled me to transform myself into the person, the mom, the lover--the Woman--I imagined.

Each book leaves its mark,

I believe in words, in books, in literacy and libraries.

I believe in pursuing answers to questions one is afraid to voice,
And thanks to the Wichita Public Library, I could always afford to do that.

1 comment:

  1. Yes! You rock, Jeri. Especially the last paragraph.