Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I love my library

I went to the local public library today. Although, here in Kent we don't have a "public" library, we have a "free" library. Now, I like that distinction, but my cousin, Dave, says it is just like us fucking hippies in Kent to have a free library. I have tried to explain to him that it is called the "free" library to differentiate it from the old concept of paid subscription libraries, but those of you who know Dave know how he would react to that.

I have tried to like the library in Kent, and I am still trying. The good citizens here actually passed a levy to build a big, fancy, new library. They have attached it to the old Carnegie library, which I feel was a mistake. The old library sits forlornly off to one side, looking dowdy and small and slightly embarrassed. Maybe I am just resentful of the fact that the old library here in Kent was saved, while my beloved old library in Elyria was thoughtlessly torn down.

Words fail me when I try to describe how much I loved that library. It was in the old Reefy house on Third Street across from the old YMCA. The house had a big wraparound porch, and the late return box was actually a big wooden box that sat on the front porch. To get to the children's room, we had to go outside and down the steps on the side of the porch. There was a separate entrance, and inside the door, sandstone steps led down to the Longfellow Room, as the children's basement room was called. The sandstone steps glittered and crunched underfoot as we walked down them. Miss Vivian Hackett was the children's librarian, and Miss Yarish - who liked my brother, but not me - worked there, checking out books, until she got married.

My family always walked to the library - which was a good thing, as there was virtually no parking. I walked there with my dad, I walked there with my mother, and when we got a little older, my brother, Thomas, and I walked there together many times. When we were children, we were only welcome in the children's room, and our cards would only check out books down there. Needless to say, there were no CDs or DVDs or video games. The books were enough. And how proud we were when we were allowed to switch to adult library cards and check out books from the big upstairs library. After that, we never went back to the children's room.

There were small reading rooms across from the circulation desk, and old men sat at the long wooden tables there, reading the newspaper on wooden dowel rods. I longed to be a grown-up and read my newspapers that way. Alas, by the time I grew up, that library was long gone, and I have always had to read my newspapers the regular way. A new library was built in the late 60s, and the church next door bought the property and demolished the old one.

Of all the places now lost to me, the door to that old library is the one I long to walk through more than any other. With Thomas Wolfe, I lament, "O lost."

7 comments:

Ben said...

I thought I knew how you felt about the Kent library so the title of this post threw me for a second. Personally I think the Kent library is just fine, reflecting the times in which it was built. Probably some day, as we read downloaded books on our electronic gizmos, it will seem like a quaint waste of space.

I always love to hear you rhapsodize about the old EPL. It was the search for this Holy Grail of postcards, after all, that helped propel our collection. (We're still looking). Libraries loom large in your legend.

Bryan said...

*sigh* The old library house. I wish that building were still standing, even if it weren't a library.

I have to say, I feel very fortunate that our local library is part of the Clevnet system. I've gotten even the most obscurest of books and CDs from all over Northeast Ohio. It seems a lot of them come from Willoughby or another far eastern suburb, for some reason. Broadway must be big over there.

anne mancine said...

The Clevnet system is indeed impressive and efficient. The Ohiolink system for colleges and universities is quite awesome as well, and Julie laments that they have nothing like it in Delaware or Maryland.

Also - thanks for the photo, Ben. I swear I could walk through that door right now and know where everything was. Even the funky old one-stall uni-sex restroom. (We were so ahead of our time on that score.)

Julie said...

i DO lament the lack of an ohiolink out here. people at ohio colleges really have no idea how lucky they are! on the other hand, a network linking all of delaware's universities wouldn't do a whole heck of a lot...

if i remember right, ohiolink is even hooked (one way, probably) to clevenet--when i was at OU, i used to get books periodically from cleveland public library, not to mention KSU and BG.

also, it may not be as awesome as the cool old house library was (and i imagine that was pretty cool), but there's still quite a bit to be said for the building from the 1960s to those of us who grew up with it! i remember that library smell, and how nice the air conditioning was in the summer or when tom and i occasionally biked there. i still know where a lot of the sections are--hardy boys and geography books with lots of pictures in the children's room, and biographies and classics in the adult area--and how mad i was when they moved things around, and stopped using the card catalogue (the real one).

being able to go behind the circ desk, and in the back rooms, and see how the library actually worked, and use the back door of the elevator, and to explore the huge basement made it a pretty cool place too--thanks to having a mom that worked there!

Kristy said...

Having grown up in the country, going to the library was A Big Deal for me and quite a special treat. Even though the Auglaize County public library was very much a large Brick Box, I really enjoyed going there and it was quite something when I got my adult card :)

Bryan said...

Haha yes, I'm with Julie. While the building itself doesn't exactly burst with character, I do have fond memories of going there as a kid. I remember the old card-card catalog, where the magazines now are. I remember having to type "A=" for an author search on the computers, and when the new keyboards had that key built right in. Predictably, I spent most of my time around SCH in the children's area and 741.5 in the non-fiction.

I guess I also have a bit of wistfulness for my unemployed period after college, when I requested many a Broadway CD and musical movie through Clevnet and was there several times a week to pick up my latest arrival.

Then there's the West River branch.........

anne mancine said...

I'm glad to know that even the style-less (not to say, soul-less) library on Washington Avenue is able to elicit some happy memories. I know Julie and Bryan and Tom and many other Elyria children spent many hours there, which their parents certainly hoped were happy ones.

There were some excellent children's librarians there during those years, and I would be remiss not to mention Lila McGinnis and Terri Smith and Brenda Hogan and the incomparable Mary Worthington. How proud they must be to have fostered a love of books and reading in a generation of Elyria children.