La Biblioteca

I’m sitting in a local library, using the computers, and spying on the woman directly across from me. Her son, approximately three years old, is nestled on her lap, as she searches for coloring pages, reading worksheets, and other such things. Homeschool mom would be my first guess.

She’s whispering to him, listening to his thoughts as he decides between colors, patterns, and other things which really matter to young people. He’s whispering back; clearly trained in the rules of this space.

A friend of mine said she never checks books out of the library. She says she’s too germphobic, and struggles with where the books have been and what they’ve done. I disagree, but I also eat food off the floor, so there may be greater hygiene issues at play.

We went to the library every single week as a child, armed with plastic shopping bags. We stuffed ourselves with words, licked paragraphs off our fingertips. The librarians knew our names, saved books for us, slipped us lollipops.

My kids went to storytime, and sat in the backseat, absorbing their bounty on the way home. They each have libraries of their own at their respective schools.

How bad can life be if there are libraries and dogs? When I arrived in Spain, and walked onto a military base, it was being in two foreign countries at the same time. But when I walked into the library, I was home.

I wish I enjoyed reading books in Spanish. I can speak it fine, but books are too special to add that extra layer of challenge. I don’t want to lose the story because I’m stuck in the pluperfect.

When I frequent a local bookstore, I buy beautiful fairy tales in Spanish, wrap them with care, and give them to people when I can. I finger the spines. I buy pens, or calendars. It just feels good to smell books, and be around people who love them.

I fear a world without libraries, where the right to read isn’t a given. It, along with national parks, is society in its best dress. The we we’re capable of being.

2 thoughts on “La Biblioteca

  1. I spent my entire childhood and teenage years in libraries. lived in a town too small for a used bookstore, any bookstore, really. And the internet wasn’t even a whispered future. It didn’t really matter; we were too poor to buy more than a handful of books every year and my appetite was too great to be satisfied with the annual book fair finds.

    I checked out twenty a week. That was the limit Mrs. Holton put on me because I had a bad habit of “forgetting” to return them, paying a penny a day for the books I couldn’t bear to return. She sneaked me romance novels when my mom wasn’t looking, pointed me towards biographies of silent film stars – and then pointing me towards the silent films themselves. I lived in the upstairs section, spending most of my free time between the stacks of books or curled up in a chair. The library was a second home.

    I don’t go anymore. My local library is too big. It’s too overwhelming. I can’t figure out the Library of Congress system. There are barcodes and I miss the thunk of the date stamp. I can’t remember my library card number and they are strict. And I now spend more money on books than clothes. My kids and I are fairly certain I might spend more on books than food.

    But I can’t imagine a world without libraries. I can’t imagine a world where there’s no place for a poor girl in a rural town to dream of cities and countries far beyond her ability to visit. Libraries are the very best of us.

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