My love affair with libraries stretches back to childhood. Our mother would take us every week to peruse the shelves of our local library a mile away down the Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis. When I was elementary school aged, I’d check out as many hard bound and soft bound stories as I could carry from our book haven. Usually the pile was a dozen high. Back home I’d become what my dad called, “a hot house plant.” I’d stay inside on beautiful days to immerse myself in imagination. Clifford, the Big Red Dog was a favorite of mine at that point. So big, so loveable, so clumsy, but loyal as the day was long to his little Susie. Then, I entered into the magic kingdoms of the Yellow Fairy Book and the Blue Fairy Book.
[Para leer este ensayo en español, mira aquí.]
When I hit my mythology craze in sixth grade, the library was key. I read collections from every tradition and culture I could find. Greek and Roman stories were easy to locate. Fascinated, I memorized the names of ancient gods and goddesses. For other cultures I found fewer books. I was able to find tales from Russian, American Indian and Chinese cultures. I reveled in the uniqueness and universality of the tales.
In high school and college, I began to study in libraries. Ah, the lovely quiet of those days. I learned facts, read texts and summarized them in notes. At the University of Texas, my favorite place to turn my pages of Spanish and Latin American literature was the Architecture Library. Wooden beams lined the high ceiling and large windows flooded the study room with the light of new ideas.
What of libraries in South America? I don’t have extensive experience, but I can tell you about one in Brazil and one in Chile. Evan and I were lucky enough to meet a wonderful Brazilian friend when we lived in Chile. She invited us to visit her home town of Sao José do Rio Preto, Brazil. We happily accepted and enjoyed the time we spent with her and her mom, a sweet person who was a fabulous cook. They took us on a tour of their city and showed us one of the most unique libraries we’ve seen. To me, it looked like a giant spider, with five legs.
In Chile, we entered in one public library in the comuna of Providencia, Santiago, where we resided. Its use was restricted to people who lived in that particular district. In order to enter, we had to prove our address was within the same area. I asked if a postcard would work and they laughed. The only “official” bill we were mailed at that time was for the internet. Gladly, that worked as our open sesame to the Biblioteca de Providencia.
Back in the USA, Wisconsin has great public libraries. I often write my blog at the Monona Library because it has a wonderful quiet room with floor to ceiling windows.
The world language section of the library for children is not extremely large, but it has books originally written in Spanish and good translations of popular books written in English like those by Mo Willems and JK Rowling.
Our closest library is downtown. The whole family will trek there walking, biking, on the bus or in our Chevy Volt. We borrow books, movies, use the library computers, and I write there on paper or electronically. I love the modern feel of the building, the beautiful furnishings and art. People from 0 to 100 of all races and orientations are welcome. It feels like the best part of our democracy.
The children’s section in the basement is very fanciful and fun. Several “reading caves” are under the stairs and they are filled with kids each time we visit.
Bilingual stairs! Our child loves this. Kids walk or jump up the stairs shouting, “uno, dos, tres!” The numbers in English are on the left hand side, outside the photo.
For adults and children, I am passionate about these sanctuaries of knowledge. Libraries are resources to promote equality, they are the base of our intellectual development, they are islands of calm in a frantic world. To live without them would be to not live well. Happy International Library Day!
Thanks to the blog Crónicas de Otro Mundo for proposing the library theme in honor of International Library Day! ¡Olé! –Rebecca
Hola, y gracias for visiting! What’s your favorite library or favorite place to read? Write me a note below por favor.
Para leer este ensayo en español, haz un clic aquí.