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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Looking forward to the new library

I wish I could take a good picture. If I were a gifted photographer, I would drive around with a camera in my car so that I would always be ready to grab a snapshot of a scene. For example, on my 15-minute drive into town this glorious autumnal Saturday, I saw the following works of art that I wish I had captured on film: two gleaming black horses standing pushme-pullyou style under glowing yellow leaves on a maple tree; blood-red chrysanthemums in black iron urn planters next to cheeky orange pumpkins on the front steps of a white house; a real-life cowboy in a plaid shirt, boots and jeans leaning on a shiny red truck, talking to a white dog with a brown spot around its eye. It appeared as though a television crew had come through town, setting the stage for visual perfection in every corner before the cameras started rolling. I hope lots of people got married today because it was the perfect day for a wedding. It even rained a bit at the end of the afternoon, for luck.

I drove past the new library construction and thought of how many hours I have spent in libraries over the years. Life is so busy now that my recreational reading has been reduced to a few minutes a day before bed unless I’m on vacation, but there have been times in my life when I positively devoured books.

We only had two channels on the TV when I was growing up, so books were important. I was a regular customer at the public library, where I borrowed as many books as I could carry each week. My favourite authors were Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl and Carolyn Keene. (I just discovered, after Googling “who wrote the Nancy Drew series?” that it was actually a bunch of people, writing under the collective name of Carolyn Keene. That boggles the mind.)

Books entrusted to my safekeeping were always in some sort of danger, unfortunately. I read while walking home after school. My favourite place to read was up a tree. Many times a book fell out of my shoulder bag during the climb, landing in a pile of damp leaves – or worse. I used to read during my bath too, until that fateful evening when a very large hardcover copy of The Story Girl slipped through the bubbles into the water. When I checked to see if it had dried out the next morning, I was shocked to see its pages had swollen so that the book was forced permanently open. I have a confession: I squeezed that book shut and returned it to the library shelf without telling Mrs. Folkard, the Kemptville Public School librarian at the time. She scared me just a little.

Hangin’ out in the public library was one of my favourite pastimes when I was young. A few decades later, the library was a weekly destination when I was raising young children of my own. It provided much more than books to a young mother desperate to get out of the house. When I lived in Asia, I scooped up the new English bestsellers as soon as they arrived on the display table before they could disappear.

I’m looking forward to checking out (get it? I punned ;) our new library and dusting off my old borrower’s card. I hope we find an appropriate use for the old library building, because it holds a special place in the hearts of many local book lovers.

Last month we lost Mrs. Groskopf, the librarian who held court in the old stone building on Prescott Street when I was a skinny little four-eyed bookworm. She had a smile that crinkled up her eyes, and I know she loved her library because she knew exactly where every book could be found. I once thought I would be a librarian some day. It says so in my kindergarten yearbook (circa 1973, if you must know...). Many things have changed but my love of books remains. Thank you to everyone who donated their money, time and efforts to the Room to Read campaign. I know I’m going to be one of our new library’s first customers.

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