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Topic: your earliest library memories

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Subject: your earliest library memories
Date Posted: 2/7/2012 5:44 AM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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How old were you when you started going to the library? I had to wait until I was in fifth grade--oh, how I longed to go before then! But as a member of a one-car, large family it just wasn't possible.

Our city's main library was in a old, castle-like building that totally enraptured me from the moment I entered. I was in heaven, gazing at so many books!

And that first trip was such an eye-opener: I hadn't been aware that there was a series of Little House books (my third grade teacher had read us the first two, but I didn't know the story continued), a series of Mary Poppins, a series of Winnie-the-Pooh. . .What an absolute thrill!

I got attached to other series as well: Betsy and Tacy, and the delightful Moppets. I read so many books repeatedly, savoring them each time.

What are your earliest memories of libraries?


Date Posted: 2/7/2012 7:25 AM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2007
Posts: 5,615
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My first memory is actually of the bookmobile that used to come to our neighborhood every now and then when I was a kid.  Do they even have bookmobiles anymore?  I can't remember any particular book I chose, but I vividly recall my brother selecting one about firetrucks, because the book was shaped like a firetruck and even had spinning wheels attached to it.  He and I must have read that book a zillion times before having to return it.  That darn bookmobile definitely helped hook me on reading!

Date Posted: 2/7/2012 7:25 AM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2007
Posts: 5,615
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Double post, oops!

Last Edited on: 2/7/12 7:27 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 2/7/2012 10:04 AM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
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I remember gettting my first library card, but I dont remember what grade I was in (I think first, but not sure). My mom liked to go to the library alot, so I have very early memories of going. We had a library in a very old building down town, then they moved to a new building by the time I was in school and I have vivid memories of the old library.

Date Posted: 2/7/2012 4:36 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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My (technologically-(obsolescent) grandpa took me to the branch library when I was three years old, so that had to have been along about the spring or summer of 1931 . . . . . we walked, because  Grandpa and Grandma didn't own an "automobile".  On my little peach-stump legs I went. all those blocks over to the high school, one of those brick boxes heated in the winter with a coal-burning furnace and air-conditioned in the spring and summer by opening a window.  You see, the library was a part of the high school building, one end of the first floor.  It was divided into two parts, and you had to pass though the "Adult" section to get to the "Children's Room".  Grandpa sweet-talked the librarian into issuing me a card on the strength of my being "literate"----he had taught me how to print my name.  So I got that precious little blue card that allowed the cardholder to check out TWO books at a time!   I thought it was the most wonderful arrangement!  (Of course, for quite a while, Grandpa had to read them to me . . .)  Years later, I wondered about that, because Grandpa had been obliged to leave school at age 10, when his father had died.  Just how well Grandpa read I do not know.  Last summer, at a thrift store, I ran across an illustrated edition of Frog Went A-Courting", and I experienced a surge of emotion for that time when Grandpa and I sat side by side, and he "read" a copy of that tale to me . . . .  he might have been reciting it from memory, as I wonder, now.  Those were the days when children still read Little Black Sambo and looked at the pictures as the story progressed to that cheerful conclusion with Little Black Sambo eating that enormous number of pancakes!   And we had Beatrix Potter's menagerie . . . . . . . .ah, the memories . . . . .  

Last Edited on: 2/7/12 7:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 2/7/2012 5:55 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,640
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Little Black Sambo eating that enormous number of pancakes!

God, I remember that book also.

My first memories are also of the bookmobile coming to my neighborhood. Mom said I would sit out on the front stoop an hour or more before it came so I would  not miss it. And it seemed it left all too soon! The bookmobile seemed huge to me but it probably wasn't all that big.  And I never believed that I could own that many books myself.

I must have been in the first grade (I was six in 1953) or earlier as we moved soon after my first year at my grade school near that house. I learned how to read early because my mother read to me early - starting when I was in her womb.

Last Edited on: 2/22/12 10:12 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 2/7/2012 8:04 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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Thomas:  your post about your mother reading to you in utero reminded me of another report I once heard from a woman friend---she was studying for her advanced degree in psychology (I think it was) and she found she could read her textbook aloud while nursing, or holding, the baby, and it would soothe the infant, while she got her reading assignment done.

Another woman friend didn't go for a Master's degree until her four children were "big" (but still very much in need of their female parent), and her household was so loud, and busy, regularly, that she had trouble at first finding a chunk of time to read, or write, her homework assignments.  The arrangement she arrived at was to sit under the "bonnet" hair dryer to study, and the four kids were under STRICT orders NOT to interrupt her unless the house started to burn down.  Sometimes she actually had shampooed her hair first!

Date Posted: 2/8/2012 5:55 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 3,133
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I spent the first eight years of school in rural schoolhouses where I read every book I could find on those few shelves.  One of the authors I found I liked was James Fenimore Cooper.  At home my mother always put books under the Christmas tree.  I couldn't wait to see what was there - Little Women, Litte Men, Heidi, etc.

Last Edited on: 2/8/12 5:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 2/8/2012 8:43 PM ET
Member Since: 5/15/2010
Posts: 143
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I'm not sure how old I was when I first started going to libraries. Maybe the 1st grade. My mother was a very avid reader and she regulary went to the library and any of us children were welcome to come along with her (I'm one of 8). I do recall that my town library had just (proudly and with much fanfare) opened up a Children's room in the basement. I was required to get a children's library card and the librarians would only allow me to borrow from the Children's room. My brother, who is a year older than I, was a very proficient reader who already had a "regular" library card and couldn't understand why the librarians were demoting him to the Children's room. I think they let him continue to borrow from the Adult section. He was mad for anything non-fiction.

My very first job was at age 13 when I was a "page" in that library. I put books away and worked at the circ desk to check out books to the patrons. I had that job all through high school and I worked in libraries all through college, as well (part of my financial aid package). After college, I got my MS in library science and I have been a librarian these many years. I have seen many changes in the library world, but at its heart it hasn't changed. A librarian's job is to connect people to information, whether that information is online or in print (in my world -- I work in a special collection -- in books, often rare and obscure -- much of that work is in print as well as digital). I guess you could say I've spent my life in libraries and museums. I don't regret that for a moment! It's certainly fed my book addiction, which is why I joined PBS, to try to whittle down my TBR pile. Yeah, right.

Stephanie and Thomas, you both mention bookmobiles. If you haven't yet read Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader -- a wonderful novella -- I think you may like it. In the story, Elizabeth, Queen of England, who never read a book in her adult life (this is a fictional version of Elizabeth, mind you) accidently discovers the bookmobile that has been coming to her castle every week for years. To be polite, she takes out a book and reads it. This begins a late in life discovery of the seductive power of reading. A truly wonderful and funny story!



Last Edited on: 2/8/12 8:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Subject: Libraries
Date Posted: 2/15/2012 11:51 PM ET
Member Since: 11/15/2011
Posts: 56
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I cannot remember how old I was when I first started going to the library, but I remember the excitement I felt whenever I entered the beautiful, old, West Side Branch.  The day I discovered the shelf of Little House books was pure heaven!  My love of historical fiction began that day.

My mother didn't have a lot of time to read in those days, but encouraged  my sister and I to read.  Whenever we deemed a trip to the library a necessity, she would drop everything and drive us there.  Thanks, Mom!

The township we lived in also had bookmobile service in the summer, so that was a regular stop for us, too.  It was fun, but the "big" library was our first choice.

When I "grew up" I worked as a school library media specialist for most of my teaching career so I got to share my love of reading with several generations of elementary school children.

Now that I am retired, I'm trying to read the scores of unread books in my personal library that I have collected over the years.  If I can just spend the rest of my life with a book in my hand and a dog at my side I will be content!



Date Posted: 2/16/2012 10:43 AM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2007
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Janet, thank you, I will seek out Alan Bennett's The Uncommon Reader, it sounds like a great read!

Date Posted: 2/16/2012 3:20 PM ET
Member Since: 2/3/2010
Posts: 8,728
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I loved "The Uncommon Reader."  I bought all the copies on the shelf recently at Barnes and Noble, and I give them away to my friends who are "real" readers.

When I was about 9 (over 50 years ago) the town I lived in opened a library. My mom was one of the original volunteers there.  She would take me with her while she worked and I would find a spot and sit and read.  Sometimes she let me use the machine which punched the cards.  Thanks for bringing back this wonderful memory.


Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 2/18/2012 1:57 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
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In 1987 (when I was 5) my family moved to Attleboro, MA and I am guessing I got my card for the public library then (I could read when I was 3).  I remember the children's librarian was a white-haired woman who seemed to me to be about a hundred years old giving a lecture on taking care of books...don't take then in the bathtub, don't read then while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that sort of thing.  The library remained a constant source of pleasure for me my entire life, and I have no idea how many thousands of books I borrowed from them.  I remember the switch from file cards to a computerized catalogue, I remember getting my first adult card (which sadly cracked in half several years later, and I had to replace) and there was a period of a couple of years the library moved from its imposing Victorian castle to a small storefront while it was being renovated, but later moved back to its original locale, where I haunted the science fiction section until the day I moved here to NY in 2007.  I think it was sometime in 2005, and 18 years into my history with the library, I was waiting in line to check my books out, and I saw a little kid getting his first library card.  There she was, the same white-haired old librarian, seeming to me not aged a day from when I got my first card giving the kid EXACTLY the same spiel she'd given me, down to not reading while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  It was as if not a day had passed.

For the record, I am happy with my current library as well, where the full-time librarians grab my books off the "reserved" shelf as soon as they see me coming, without having to scan my card to see my name  yes

Date Posted: 2/18/2012 4:41 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Matt, you make it sound rather like belonging to some arcane, secret society with a 'talisman' (library card) that identifies you as an initiated member of the 'lodge'.  And a High Priestess . . . . I loved that part of your reminiscence! ...........Oh, and a creed, too------No books in the bathtub---no reading a book while eating a PBJ.....etc.

Last Edited on: 2/18/12 4:43 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 2/24/2012 4:17 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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What Janet E. and Anita wrote aboiut The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett, is wholly accurate.   It is a delightful, whimsical tale about Her Majesty, Elizxabeth II, and books.  One should obtain a copy of this novella, brew one's self a proper cup ot tea, sit down and kick off one's shoes, and read.  You won't even have to decode the Britishisms to capture the flavor of the extra-polite English language used by most of the characters,  I liked that the one character who spoke a "dirty" word aloud was sacked (lost his job as a member of the Queen's household staff).   I only looked up one curious bit of the Brit-lingo----on page 41, Bennett writes of how, increasingly, those loving subjects who were accorded audiences with the Queen left the palace afterwards "feeling that the monarch had somehow bowled them a googly."   My research turned up that it's a metaphor from the game of cricket, and I think the 'American translation' might be "the monarch had somehow thrown them a curve".

Date Posted: 3/23/2012 6:56 AM ET
Member Since: 1/21/2009
Posts: 5,677
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I remember going to the North Chicago library.  Always loved getting Madeline books.  The thing that sticks out most in my mind was the huge card catalog in that big wooden case!  Loved looking through that and having to cross reference things.  OOHH I should have been a librarian.  I really miss those card cases and all those index cards. I know, I'm a paper girl in a computer world.

The books I remember from grade  school were Young Helen Keller, Stone Soup & Queen Liliokalani. Non fiction girl until I was about 21.

Date Posted: 3/31/2012 5:21 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2008
Posts: 379
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I remember walking to the local library. It was in the same building as city hall, the firestation, and where I had my dance leasons. A special treat was going downtown to the big main library. So many books!