Since I didn't have a mother I was sent each summer until I was 11 or 12 to visit my Aunt, my mother's mother, in Oxford, MA, but some part of me was also being sent to the Oxford Public Library. I always remember this library as a castle, with imposing red bricks, and a steep flight of front stairs, and inside, a hush and cool against the heat of summer. The children's room was on the very top floor, up two or three flights of stairs, the last of twisting of metal. The librarian there, who I hadn't seen since the summer before, was waiting for me, somehow (maybe because my Aunt and Uncle were fairly prominent in their small town), remembering me as the 'girl from New York who liked books.' I don't know if my Aunt or Uncle frequented the library, they weren't book people in the way my father was, but they knew I was an odd, sad, moody, too-smart-for-my-own-good-at-times girl who liked to read too much. This librarian and its top floor saved my life for two weeks every summer from the sadness of being sent away from my father.
The one constant in my life has been books -- and I feel we take for granted our public library system, we underfund it, which is always the best sign in America if you value something or not. This is wrong. A mistake. Short-sighted. Libraries changed, enriched, made hopeful one little girl's life and gave her books -- and possibilities.
The AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION annual meeting is coming up this month -- so I am thinking about my novel in the hands of librarians, on library bookshelves, being checked out and in --by someone, maybe like me, who always took out tumbles of books. But even more, I am thinking of the public library in Oxford Massachusetts, which I stopped visiting at age 11 or 12, and about how libraries and librarians since have enriched my life. Saved it. Let us know praise librarians and our public libraries.