Ever since I can remember I’ve loved going to the library. From childhood, my sister and I would meticulously pour over the rows, examining each spine for a spark of recognition. Sometimes we would go with a list, and dart in and around the book cases searching for a much sought after edition. Growing up, I remember our mother belonging to several local libraries because one was close to our house, one had an impeccable children’s collection, another one had a great selection of videos. Then of course there is that early memory in first grade of signing up for my very own library card. I don’t recall the first books I took out under my name, but I remember the pride and pleasant warmth of feeling so grown up as I became a true custodian of books.
I’m still a sucker for that crackle you hear when you open a hardcover library book and its plasticky cover crinkles open. And that musty smell that only comes from hundreds of books congregating so close together. Although, I must admit my adult love for libraries has been somewhat put on hold in recent years. When I was younger, there were so many older books that I wanted to read and it was much easier to go to the library and find them waiting there for me like secrets tucked away in corners. However as the years passed, I worked through my list and was getting more familiar with contemporary authors, I found myself going to the library and being #38 in line to check out The Golden Compass or The Hunger Games. Hunting through the stacks in libraries was transferred to perusing local indepedent book stores that specialized in used books. But it wasn’t the same.
Last week, my local library branch in North Berkeley re-opened its doors after two years of renovation and I ventured over to take a look. It’s a small library, originally built in 1936, rose terracotta on the outside with arched entryways and vaulted ceilings making the inside feel open and spatious. There are two wings, the children’s and the adult sections, each one centered around a gas fireplace with deep armchairs.
After browsing the adult wing, I turned to the children’s and discovered an incredibly diverse YA section. Scouring the shelves I saw many books that I hadn’t been able to find used or new, two that stood out to me were Julie Hearn’s The Minister’s Daughter and Diana Wynne Jone’s Unexpected Magic: Collected Short Stories. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Quickly I glanced surreptitiously over at the only other occupants in the room, a father reading a story to his three year old daughter and scooped up the books and rushed to the self check out counter.
Perhaps just enough time has passed so that the books on my ‘To Read List’ are now less coveted by other readers, or perhaps this new library branch hasn’t been rediscovered by all the locals yet. For whatever reason, I am once again thrilled to be able to update my status to: in an active relationship with my library.