September was Library Card sign-up month — a reminder to parents and children that a library card is the most important school supply of all. So I’m a little late to the game to write a mini tribute to libraries. Kind of like an overdue book. But I’ll write it anyway.
Confession: I love libraries. Always have. My earliest memory of being inside a library is sitting on a carpeted floor, listening to a librarian read from a picture book. Story time. The sound of her voice filling the room with the melody of words. Anticipating what could happen with each turn of the page. In grade school, I remember walking to the car with my mom, clutching a library book to my chest, awaiting the moment when we’d get home and I could run to my room, curl up in my favorite chair and crack open the spine, diving into the story and not coming up for air until dinnertime.
There were countless trips to the neighborhood bookmobile, too, which parked just a few blocks from my house every other Thursday afternoon. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to have a bus bring me books! As a teenager, I rode my bike to and from the library, my metal basket filled with books.
Typical 1970s library
When I became a parent, I took my three kids to story time at the library, met there with our parent-child book clubs, attended many events, not to mention borrowed hundreds of books over the years. The addition of the self-checkout was reason enough to go! My kids loved checking out books themselves (how cool is that beeping scanner!) and I loved avoiding a long line.
Our library recently underwent a major renovation, and while one thing has remained constant — shelf after shelf of books — much about the library is reinvented to meet the demands of today’s patrons. There’s a coffee shop, a multimedia area, open space, brightly-colored comfortable seating, and a friendly, cozy atmosphere.
Vernon Area Public Library, Lincolnshire, Illinois
From the very first library, excavated in Syria (dating back to 1200 BCE), to today’s multimedia centers, with programs, meeting space, and technology at our fingertips, libraries have continued to evolve over time. And people use them more than ever. With the recent economic downturn, libraries experienced an increase in traffic and usage.
I once worried that because we live in a world relying more and more on technology, libraries might (gulp) go the way of the typewriter and rotary phone. Thankfully that has not happened. So take a ride over to your local library and get your child a card. Or if he or she already has one, use it! Honestly, it really will be the best school supply ever received. For free.
Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of Calli Be Gold (Wendy Lamb Books 2011) and The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days (Wendy Lamb Books, coming April 2014). Visit her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.