After doing this post about My Life in Bookstores, I realized that I’ve surely spent much more of my life in libraries, and that they should be given their due. Here are some that had personal significance for me. For more library love, you can browse this page of Library Visits from Wildmoo Books. (What a great idea! If anybody else is posting about libraries, please let me know.)
The one I grew up in: Mercer Island Library (Mercer Island, WA)
Besides visiting frequently from ages 8 to 18 and on visits home after that, I had my first job here in high school, solidifying my alphabetization skills and packing books to send to patrons by mail. I liked shelving books because I could browse as I went, but the dreaded “shelf reading” (making sure shelves were in the correct Dewey Decimal order) bored me silly.
The library was completely transformed by a remodel after I left home, so the place of my childhood memories is gone. When looking for pictures for this post, I learned that another proposed remodel is causing controversy (as in, why fix what isn’t broken?). Libraries come and go, but Mercer Island politics are eternal.
The one I wish was still around the corner: Forbes Library (Northampton, MA)
I only lived in Northampton for a year, but it remains my ideal town. Not least among its attractions is this wonderful castle-like building with an arched interior and glass balconies, which houses a splendid book collection and tons of atmosphere. I used to live just around the corner, and I wish I still did. I haven’t been back since a remodel, and I hope it remains as distinctive as I remember it. Some architectural history
The ugly duckling: Finkelstein Memorial Library (Spring Valley, NY)
For 17 years this was my home library. In spite of its uninspiring architecture, grumpy librarians, and noisy clientele, it had a pretty decent book collection which was quite excellent when combined with easy access to the extended county library system. Alas, a couple of years ago they decided to secede from that system, forming one more reason for me not to regret moving away from the area. When researching this post, I was startled (but not entirely surprised) to learn that just last month an SUV rammed through the front entrance, injuring six people and causing extensive damage! What a terrible shock for patrons and staff. I hope everyone recovers soon.
The glamour queen: New York Public Library (New York, NY)
The dream: Bodleian Library, Oxford, England
Perhaps the ultimate attraction for English lovers, the Bodleian encompasses beautiful historic buildings as well as important and ancient books. I visited as a teenager but haven’t been back since, and I don’t know if I’ll ever manage to return, but I can dream. I wrote here about a recent exhibition I would love to have visited; Reno of Falling Letters wrote here about how she actually did. Jealous!
The reality: Keene Public Library, Keene, NH
My new town library is adorable but tiny — I probably own almost as many fiction titles as they do. For only $50, though, I was able to gain access to the collections of both this spacious, recently modernized public library and Keene State College. It’s 45 minutes away, but online reservations and renewals make it all easy. Hooray for technology!