For The Keepers of the Books
I sit in the calm quiet of the library as my children pour over the shelves upon shelves of books and I realize how very much at home I feel here. I wouldn’t necessarily identify myself as a bibliophile. I don’t have bookcases full of beloved novels at home (although I do prominently display my favorite edition of Alice’s Adventures on my nightstand). My sparse book collection is partially due to my decluttering tendencies, but is mostly a result of my long held love affair with libraries. I find the act of borrowing a book intimate and somehow cathartic. I enjoy walking up and down the aisles, skimming the spines of what I know are numerous other worlds. I know, as everyone else does, that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; but the right color paired with the perfect complimentary typography will catch my eye every single time. I appreciate the worn smell of a library book and the familiar creaking noise it makes as you open the cover to the title page. I hesitate before turning to chapter one, wondering who has flipped these pages before me and whether or not they relished the adventure the lines led them through.
I vividly remember my elementary school librarian, Ms. Freshour. She wore over-sized glasses and had extremely long, stick straight brown hair (both a sign of the times and the profession). She wore pale pink overalls on St. Patrick’s Day and would explain to the sea of green clad children before her that as a British Protestant she was taught to wear pink instead of the traditional green that the Irish Catholics wear. (I’ve since been told that Protestants actually wear orange, but her overalls are forever pink in my memory.) Come to think of it, Ms. Freshour may be the first British accent to lure me and may be the very roots of my obsession with all things British. Her proper, fancy accent called us to sit at her feet where she would grant the highest honor of choosing which book she would read to us first. Obviously, this woman made quite the impression on me and I have since continued to hold others of her profession—the keepers of the books—in high regard.
Through high school and college, as card catalogs fell way to the Internet and print pages to e-readers, I continuously found myself holed up in libraries studying, reading…escaping. As an adult, when I occasionally find myself feeling lost and in need of grounding, I wander to “my place” and plop on the floor of the fiction section, tall shelves towering over me as I skim the spines and search for an adventure to take me away.
Now, as my children approach with their library bags overflowing with books and begging to grab “just a few more,” I smile and make a silent wish that they too will always find a library in their lives that can provide haven and be their escape when needed. May the keepers of the books be ever good to them and may the shelves hold unending treasures.