Very few things make my heart pitter-patter the way walking into a library does. Whether it be the small public library in my hometown, the tiny library at my mom’s elementary school, or the enormous library in the heart of San Francisco – my heart skips a beat every time. From the outside, the library looks warm and inviting. The sickly hospital looking lights, rows of chipped tables and moldy chairs from the 1970′s are enough to make my heart burst with love and affection (Remember in How The Grinch Stole Christmas when his heart quadruples in size and busts out of the wire x-ray frame? It’s similar to that.) The homeless people peeing on the sidewalk outside the door as I enter, call me “sweet ass”, and are no more offensive than the coo of a dozen doves.
I am in my element and excited to begin my hunt for the perfect book. As I enter the library, I give myself a few moments to take it all in. I love the musty smell of paper and the walls lined with books, all of whom are anxiously waiting to be taken home for the week by an excited reader. I love the satisfying crackle of a binding as you open that first page. Or looking inside the sleeve and seeing the rows of dates that have been crookedly stamped on the Return Slip by librarians in the past, like little badges of honor. One can often find me in the biography or fiction section, selecting a tasty looking little volume and sniffing its musky pages in a highly inappropriate and overly aggressive manner. (Sometimes I have to give apologetic looks to people sitting close by, who hold their purses just a little bit nearer or move to the table farther away as I huff Abe Lincoln’s biography).
I love wandering the alcoves or searching for titles on the computer which seems to be from the 1980s and has a black screen illuminated with blocky letters in neon green. Is there anything sexier than the Dewy Decimal system? Every book with its proper placement and cozy little spot on the shelf. Everything from “Divorce For Dummies” to “Little Women” to “The Joy of Cooking”, has its rightful spot on the shelf which can not be replaced or duplicated, so long as that little book is there. If only everything in life could be organized so beautifully. I turn all gooey inside using the tiny golf pencils that live next to the computer, along with scraps of paper, so I can jot down a few titles to hunt for. After scanning the stacks of books, I make a few selections (a painful process which can take me anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour) and bring my new friends to the front counter for Check-Out. I smile like someone who has just won the 7th Grade Spelling Bee or found a $10 bill on the sidewalk. I am full of sunshine and unicorns as I hand the librarian my card and hear that joyful “beep!” as my card is scanned. She stamps the inside of each book and tells me their due date. By then, I will have finished them and cherished our time together very much. She hands them to me and goes about her day but in my mind, she is handing them to me saying, “I know how much you too care about books. Take care of these little guys.”
As I leave the library and see my homeless friends passed out against the building or belligerently swigging from bottles concealed in paper bags, my heart is light. I have a whole week to enjoy these new volumes which may become new favorites or horribly disappointing selections, both of which I will keep in mind during my next visit. It doesn’t matter though as I walk to my car, which of these two categories my books will fall into. I know I will be back next week to return them to their respective places on the shelf and bid them a sad farewell. I know it will not be a final goodbye though. That’s what makes libraries so wonderful. Your old friends are always there waiting patiently on the shelves for you, without judgment or expectation. No matter the weeks, months or years that pass, they will welcome you with open pages and fill your heart with joy every time.
You can read more from Barb Livingston on her blog.
Feature image via.