I do not remember the first time I walked into a library. I have been told it was while my mother was still pregnant with me. I have heard that I was one of the youngest people the librarians at my library ever remember having a library card. I think it was because my mom would always reach the limit checking out books for me when I was three.
I do remember the old décor, before the renovations. It was a funky brown. After, it was lighter, more open, more appealing. Scaling stacks that seemed to touch the giant-high ceiling were replaced with lower units in the front, shelves I was already taller than.
The Central Library in Santa Rosa was the first place away from home I was allowed to go. Friends and I would go, riding together on our scooters or bikes or the bus or on our feet. They would surf the internet (back in its early days) as I would scour the library for books.
I lived to go to the library. Every day, after I finished my schoolwork, I would ride – friends or no – and collect my books for the day. I would return home, read for hours and fall asleep. The next day I would repeat the same process. Return some books, get some others.
This was the first library I knew and loved.
The second library would be at Hanna Boys Center – the Librarian had started just days before I moved there. I would spend afternoons after school shelving, talking to the librarian and considering new ideas and new books. Again, my peers were sucked into the internet while I paged through volumes upon volumes. New books constantly expanded and old books had been reshelved poorly. Lost in the responsibility of good academics, I was crowded out from the books I so dearly loved.
My third day of Summer Bridge at Sonoma State I broke away from the crowd and headed to the library. I looked up in awe at the clock in disbelief that I was actually here. Disbelief that I was really a college student. As I entered the doors, it felt more like a cool breeze or relief. Perhaps because the air conditioning was on, and it was hot outside. As I peered at the entire shelf of Asimov that day, I vowed I would read them all before I graduated. Despite a few half-hearted attempts between my sophomore and junior year, I would never live up to my promise.
Over the period of four years I spent an accumulation of hours that probably adds up to weeks or months. Semester or break, I was there, often hiding in the corners typing at homework, surrounded by sources and books and print-outs. One semester it was one corner of the third floor, another semester it was the ARS viewing room, another it was the childrens section.
One of the most magical things about the Sonoma State library was one of the librarians. She had once been a children’s librarian at the Central Santa Rosa library – she had seen me grow up.
Books have been life to me, because that is how I was raised. Libraries fill my heart with joy, because they mean an abundance of free opportunities. It’s a community in your head, in your heart and in your life.
This post was inspired by John Scalzi’s post “A Personal History of Libraries.”