Friday, December 19, 2014

“When I got my library card, that’s when my life began.”

     Words are funny. Arranged in the wrong way, they can elicit negative feelings and be very hurtful, or even terribly misinterpreted, but when arranged with care, words can create beautiful feelings, sentiments, and even entire worlds between the covers of books. Learning to use words in a constructive way is an art, to say the least, a lesson that we all must learn. I’ve certainly missed words more times than I’d like to admit. I’ve said hurtful things without thinking before speaking, written words that I can’t take back, sent letters that maybe I should’ve just tucked away in the bottom drawer of my desk—I’m just as guilty as the next person. 
The more books that I’ve read over the years and the more pages that I’ve written, the more I find myself carefully considering how I choose my words. I should probably insert a disclaimer here: I’m not one to mince my words or to hold my tongue, and I’m definitely not a subtle person…at all. Sometimes, my ability and genuine need to express my truest, rawest, most blunt thoughts and feelings works to my advantage, but other times, it can get my in over my head. 
This brings me to the lessons that my hometown library have taught me. When I was about three or four years old, my mom took me to 212 North High Street to get my very own bright yellow card. I didn’t even know how to write my own name, so she signed on the line on my behalf and sent me off to fill my arms with books for the very first time. I wish that I could remember this moment more clearly, because it was definitely a defining moment in my life. Years later, I envision myself standing on my tiptoes to see the librarian check out my books, probably wearing a patterned jumper that my mom had laid out for me earlier that day. Little did I know that this day was the day that began my voracious, all-consuming love of the world of literature and everything that it has taught me over the years since I first put that yellow card in my pocket. 

In retrospect, I can’t thank my mom enough for fostering my love of reading and for letting my creative mind run wild. Our love of books and words and all things literary is a part of me that I love to share with her. As an aspiring writer, I truly believe that you must read well to write well. Because of this, I don’t believe in sticking to just one genre—young adult fiction, poetry, short story collections, the classics, everything under the sun—making the library my nirvana. 
After a semester of required readings and writing essays to submit on Moodle, I’ve very much been looking forward to winter break. In addition to catching up with old friends, spending time with my family, and eating lots of good food, breaks from school mean one thing for me: reading…a lot…for fun! Yesterday, my brother, Bill, asked if I wanted to spend the afternoon at the library with him. Of course, less than twenty four hours after arriving home, I had already been on the library website and made my list of books to check out on visit number one (yes, there are usually multiple visits!). I figured that while he filled out graduate school applications, I could scour the shelves, work on some of my own writing, and just relax and take in the ambiance—the old book smell, the hushed conversations of the librarians, the sound of computer keys clacking. 
During these two plus hours that Bill and I sat amongst the books housed in the Cortland Public Library, I realized that, although the library has since been relocated, this place had more than a little piece of my heart. I’ve written before about how distance and time has brought me to a deeper appreciation of my hometown, but yesterday, I realized how important that little yellow card has been in shaping the person that I am becoming and how much the library has taught me. The library has taught me many important life lessons: 

1.) Patience. Last summer, I requested and put holds on probably more than thirty books via the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library website. Then, I waited. I didn’t realize that the librarians would call my home phone and leave messages every single time a new book that I had requested arrived at our local branch. It became a joke in our family, “Oh, Sara, the library called for you again today,” but it was something for me to look forward to at the end of each long day spent at my internship. Usually, waiting was worth the reading!

2.) Respect. Library books belong to everyone. If you check one out, it’s your responsibility to take care of it and make sure that it stays in good condition so that others can enjoy it after you do. 

3.) Open-mindedness. Librarians are some of the wisest people that I’ve ever met. I love chatting up the people behind the front desk. Their careers are all about reading and helping others discover their love for books, so needless to say, they give the best book recommendations. They’re honest people and people that I’ve grown to really value the opinions of. I’ve had librarians tell me not to waste my time on certain books, which I definitely appreciate, since time is a precious thing, especially over breaks. I’ve also had them tell me to drop everything else I’m reading at the moment to read certain books. Again, much appreciated. They’re usually pretty spot on and I tend to listen to their advice!

4.) Silence. I like to talk…sometimes way too much. It’s something that I’ve always known about myself—I know that I have a lot to say and that I like to interact with others on a regular basis. That being said, believe it or not, I really appreciate silence. Some people don’t like silence, but I think it says more about a friendship when you can be comfortably silent with someone than when you can talk nonstop with them. I also like my time alone. The library and the books within it have taught me how to be alone and how to appreciate silence. When I’m reading, mouth may be closed, but my mind is often on full volume, filled with images, feelings, and words that captivate me.

5.) Imagination. This one doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation. The world of books has definitely helped me to develop my own creativity. 

…and so much more! 

“A library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.”

—Henry Ward Beecher

{title quote by Rita Mae Brown}

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