It’s no secret to the readers of grandbooking that I’ve spent a great deal of time in libraries and value the services they provide. As a child, my neighborhood library—first on Devon Avenue and then later relocated to California Avenue— was special to me. Beyond losing myself in children’s literature, I needed (in those pre-Google days) the library’s encyclopedias and other reference materials for my homework (although one day, my dad surprised me with a brand-new set of beautifully-bound Encyclopedia Britannica; remember encyclopedia salesmen?!).
Other libraries come to mind, such as the wonderful, but little-known, history library housed on the second floor of the red-brick Colonial-style bank on Devon Avenue. And I can still envision the immense dictionary perched on a revolving pedestal in my elementary school library, run by the meanest librarian in the world, Miss Sweeney. Was the dictionary as huge as I remember? Probably not. Was Miss Sweeney as mean as I remember? Absolutely.
I recall the hours I spent in my big-state university library and in the outstanding Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, where I once spent an entire day putting quarters into an electric typewriter so I could type a paper (talk about aging myself!). When I studied in France, I had the privilege (and frustration) of using the belle Bibliothèque national de france, located in Paris.
Add to this list the fond memories I have of volunteering at the book fairs held in the library at Lincoln School, where I also tried to select just the right books for my own children.
And what of libraries today? Have they faded into the background? No, they’re as relevant and beneficial, as ever. Libraries have adapted to the times, becoming a kind of media and community center while still offering the same services they always did. Among other things, libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed because they provide free access to materials and resources.
The American Library Association (ALA) tells us that
- almost 60% of adults in the United States have public library cards.
- Americans go to school, public and academic libraries 3 times more often than they go to the movies.
- almost 90% of public libraries now offer wireless internet access.
- about 93% of public libraries provide services for job seekers.
- reference librarians in the nation’s public and academic libraries answer nearly 6.6 million questions weekly.
My local library offers so many interesting and vital events, activities and resources for children, teens and adults. A few months ago, we were privileged to hear Caroline Kennedy speak movingly about her love of poetry. Since there is a strong interest in the Spanish language in our community, the library offers both a Spanish conversational group and a Spanish literary circle. What is going on in your library?
September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, specifically meant to get kids off to a good start in the new school year. A library card gives access to e-books, online homework help and other tools students need to be successful. Library card holders can reserve study rooms, subscribe to and read magazines in digital format, check out DVDs and CDs, borrow a laptop and much more. Make sure your child or grand has a library card (you, too!)—I remember how excited I was when I could print my name and receive my first library card.