“In my world there would be as many public libraries as there are Starbucks.”

Dreary is the perfect adjective to describe today. A sunless sky and a gusty wind make it chilly so long sleeves are the dress of the day. Intermittent showers are predicted. I won’t complain. We still need rain.

Earlier I had my monthly library board meeting which never takes more than an hour. We are an amiable group usually voting yes to any requests. Two members are ninety and one other is in her eighties. I always feel young.

When I was a kid, talking in the library was frowned upon. The librarian would shush us and put her finger to her lips to tell us to be quiet. We whispered but never softly enough. Even in the children’s section the librarian created a sense of foreboding. I never asked her for anything, and she never volunteered. Her circulation desk was round which I figured was the rule as every circulation desk I ever saw was round: hence, the name I suppose. The desk was across from the door and there the librarian sat to check books in and out. Those were the days of hand held stamps and book cards on which you wrote your name. I remember watching her carefully place the stamp in the due date box on the slip at the back of the book. She wanted to make sure the date was straight and in the middle of the small box. That librarian looked like she needed the stamp straight. Everything about her was perfect from the bun in her hair to the thick nylons and the black, laced shoes. The only words she ever spoke to me were, “Did you find what you wanted?” I mumbled yes every time but wondered what a no would have brought.

Libraries today are places where you feel welcome and where you can even talk without a single shush in your direction. I haven’t seen a bun on any librarian in years. The librarian in my library doesn’t wear a flowered dress or clunky black heels. She dresses for comfort because that’s the feeling she engenders in her library. She offers help and suggestions. Today I dropped off three books and picked up three more.

I have always loved libraries even when I got shushed.

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16 Comments on ““In my world there would be as many public libraries as there are Starbucks.””

  1. Erin Says:

    I was having a meeting with one of my staff members in my office and I hadn’t closed the door. I actually had a patron come around the corner and shush me! That might be the first time in history the librarian got shushed!!! Our Board meetings drag on for about two hours. We are dealing with issues with Town government, safety issues and redoing our personnel manual. I long for meetings like yours again. Seems like a distant memory.

    • Erin,
      The town libraries have a good relationship with the selectmen, and we are all reimbursed less than we want but acceptable for this fiscal day and age.

      Each village has a library so there are 5 libraries in all. The largest and newest, Dennisport, is seen as the central library by the town and it does get a bit more money. We are the smallest which is probably the reason for short board meetings. Our circulation is up and our annual fund drive has already brought in over $5000 so we are happy (we send requests only to people in our village so as not to step on toes).

      I can’t beIieve you were shushed. Libraries are vibrant places now and quiet as the dead just doesn’t work anymore. I’m not sure if i could have held my tongue after being shushed.

  2. Hedley Says:

    Rochester Hills has a beautiful library, which offers an ebranch with 1 million books and that just about says it all. I don’t remember the last time I went in to the building.

    My library is amazon and an ipad. Clouds drift over my being and I pull down music and reading without clogging up precious memory.

    I wasted endless hours in the library at college, and was persona non grata at the Grammar School as I could not deal with the concept of silence. I didn’t get shushed, I just got slung out, usually in a fit of the giggles. My favorite expulsion was when Charlie brought in “Monty Python’s Big Red Book” (which was blue) and I was removed in fits of laughter.

    Technology shifts me constantly, I look in my rear view mirror and there is no sign of the library.

    • My Dear Hedley,
      There are some ebooks available through the library system, but I use those mostly when I travel. I went to Ghana with a filled-up iPad.

      I like books the same way I still read newspapers. Also, I am now in my spend little money mode as I need to save some for another trip. All those books I downloaded weren’t expensive but now I don’t buy any.

      My grammar school had no library.

      In high school we used to go to the town library and sneak in food and have picnics on the third floor. It was skirting the line for us.

  3. Coleen Says:

    One of my favorite topics!

    Since I have gone back into being a reporter, a library is an essential tool for me. I do a sort of “This Day In Local History” for the paper, using back copies of the defunct Long Branch (N.J.) Daily Record. It’s all on microfilm, and in this day and age it’s clunky as hell. They keep saying someday they will have the monies to put it up on the internet. I will possibly meet my Maker first…

    I have a great relationship with the NJ librarians in Long Branch, Eatontown and Wall Township, and when I lived in Brick I was in there all the time. (I just remembered how after Hurricane Sandy, I posted a note to you that I was ok via the Brick location. We had no electric for 14 days, and the library did…)

    Some say the library will go away someday because of the internet. I hope not…



    • Coleen,
      I will always love the library. I used to take out records, but now I take out movies. The library costs me nothing while downloading songs does. I am on an austerity campaign.

      I remember your reassurance that you had survived. That was such an awful time. Losing electricity reminds us how tenuous a hold me have.

      My library has had an upsurge in circulation so maybe its future is still bright.


  4. olof1 Says:

    There were mostly young people working in my library so they never hushed anyone, the kids could run around like they wanted to. I think I was more disturbed than the librarians even if I myself was a kid 🙂

    I do miss those stamps and cards but we never wrote our names, they photo copied the card together with my library card with each and every book I borrowed. I still remember the sound the photo copy machine made 🙂 a low sort of humming sound. I wonder if I still have that first library card of mine, would be fun to frame it and put it on a wall 🙂

    Warm, sunny and wind free here today, very odd 🙂 Frost duriung the night though and it feels like we’ll get it tonight again.

    Have a great day!

    • Christer,
      The librarians were all older women when I was young. I wouldn’t mind conversation but running round would have been a bit much.

      I still have a card but now they just scan it and scan the books to my account.

      Still cloudy and windy today, not warm either. I wish it would just rain!

      Enjoy your evening!

  5. Caryn Says:

    Hi Kat,
    I haven’t been in my library for a long time. Not since I got my own printer, I think. It’s very nice in there, though. All redone in some modern style. Lots of open space. The circulation desk is not round. It’s more like the check in desk at the Westin. All the staff is behind there doing whatever they do. My library card is plastic with a bar code.
    I miss the card catalogue. I would probably be silly enough to purchase an old library card catalogue case, if I had the room. Fortunately, I don’t. 🙂
    Our library sells local honey and has jazz on the patio once a week. There are tables and snacks. They also have programs for various reading group. It’s kind of a happening place for a library. No buns in sight except maybe those young twist up ones that are held in place by big clips.

    Today started out gloomy but got humid and windy and then the sun came out. Now it’s gloomy again because we are under a T-storm watch until 8PM or so. We need the rain.

    Enjoy the evening.

    • Hi Caryn,
      My library is so tiny the librarian has a desk squeezed in at the front of the library. Behind her are computers.

      I know what you mean about the card catalogue. I went through it and always found surprises when I was looking up something.

      My library has an open house for three days every Christmas time and Thursdays at Two starting in the summer and going into the fall. The speakers are all different: authors, bus guides, Audubon Society, professional musicians and even more.

      When I say tiny, I mean tiny.

      Have a wonderful evening!

      • Coleen Says:

        I ABSOLUTELY LOVE that they call it the “Gingerbread Library”!!!


      • Colleen,
        It has that gingerbread along the front. We had to replace one last year. It had to be specially made for our little library.

  6. Bob Says:

    When I was a kid I also loved the library until I was old enough to get an allowance. Once I had money in my pocket I started buying paperback books. The problem with the library was that I had to return the book in a couple of weeks which was difficult because I enjoy having books. Paperback books were easier to carry and I could keep them. Sometimes I started reading a book and then put it down for a couple of weeks before finishing and start reading another book.

    One time I found a library book that I loved so much that I kept it for six months. Because I couldn’t afford to pay the fine I sneaked it back onto the shelf and took the letter to the librarian claiming that I had returned it on time. They apologized and canceled the fine. My only criminal act but I was a minor.

    Sunny and warm with scattered storms. The high was about 95 degrees.

  7. Bob,
    I too used my 50 cents allowance to buy a book, but one wasn’t enough so I still went to the library. My 50 cents bought a Whitman hard cardboard cover mystery like Trixie Belden or Donna Parker. I seldom bought paperback books as no store in town carried them.

    I read so quickly that I went back to the library every week. It wasn’t too far from school, about 4 blocks, so I often went after school.

    I don’t think I ever had books overdue. Sometimes now I have them a bit longer but the librarian knows to extend the due date, but if she forgets, I don’t have to pay a fine being on the board.

    Low 60’s today and cloudy all day. I hoped for rain but we didn’t get any.

    • Bob Says:

      You don’t have to pay the fine because you are connected? 🙁
      A policeman stops a woman for running a stop sign and asks her for her driver’s license. When she hands it to him, he reads it and says, ‘You are supposed to be wearing glasses’. She replies, ‘I have contacts’. He answers, ‘I don’t care who you know at city hall’.

      • Bob,
        Funny joke!

        Library volunteers don’t have to pay the fines. We give a great deal of our time to the library and also baked goods for all the events. I guess they figure the money I spend more than offsets the quarter or even the dollar. I also give money for two books each year in honor of my mother: one at Christmas and one on her birthday.

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