Monday, December 28, 2009

Library Love

Knowledge is free at the library. Just bring your own container.
- Unknown

I, Valerie Comer, didn't meet a library until I was twelve years old. The school I attended for the first few years was held in a three-classroom building containing grades one through seven with no library (and no gym, either, but that's another story!). Each classroom had a cupboard in the back full of books--way more books than we had at home.

Not because my parents weren't readers, although they preferred nonfiction. But because we didn't have a lot of money for extras, and reading material wasn't easily accessible. Books were treasures, special gifts for birthdays and Christmas. This is how I met Heidi and romped with her in the Swiss Alps. This is how I met The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and learned that my family was really quite wealthy. We had paper and pencils, which were major treasures to the Pepper children! And this is how I met The Borrowers, starting a life-long love affair with fantasy.

Because rural Manitoba (Canadian province) had so few public libraries, the University of Manitoba offered a mail-order lending library. I remember poring over the catalogue to choose books--yes, kids' fiction as well as adult books--and having them arrive in a brown cardboard box in the mail. In a few weeks we mailed them back with an order for more.

Although in seventh grade I attended a larger school with a room set aside for books, I didn't live in the same town as a public library until I was a married adult. Even then money was tight and choosing books to bring home was a highlight of the week for both my husband and I, both avid readers.

I can't begin to count the hours of my life that have found me in some other place--either various countries of our world or places that exist only in the imagination--all thanks to the public library. The photo shown is the circulating desk in my current local library.

What are your earliest library memories? What books do you remember from your childhood?


  1. ya know I didn't like to read until I was in my 20's, not much on library's, 4 alot of reasons.
    i like to read my books over and over, and i could spend hours in old book stores,or new ones :)

  2. I loved our local library and would wander through the shelves, touching the spines and being in awe of so many written words in one place.

  3. I went to a one room country school as well, Valerie, with a few shelves of books at the back. I think I read them all by the end of grade eight -- Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Lassie, Lad, Wolf, etc. not to mention all the horse books.
    Town was ten miles away and the library there was at the top of a very long and dusty stairway. The place was always cold and only open a couple of days a week -- no picking up a library book after church on Sunday -- and we could take only two books at a time. This is where I discovered the rest of the L.M. Montgomery books. The silence rule at the library made it feel like church -- not a bad comparison, I think:)

  4. I don't remember when it happened, all I know is that for most of my life as soon as I enter a library I relax and my emotions gear up to savor. It's the same feeling I get when I enter a church---that sense of this certain place has the tools to reach my heart. As for favorite books----too many to count.

  5. I love libraries, although these days I request books to borrow over the internet instead of browsing the shelves. When I was younger, I read everything I could lay my hands on. My early memories include reading books like Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree books, Famous Five and Secret Seven series.

  6. My childhood public library branch was reached through a basement tunnel from my elementary school. I used to hide library books in my lap to read during class. What I missed most living in Mozambique as an adult was a well-stocked lending library. Narelle, I love searching on line for books that have been recommended (or that I read about on the internet) and having them sent to my local branch for pick up! Jeanette, I just got a notice that Veiled Freedom is ready. I suggested it for purchase.

  7. Loved your post! I can so identify with it. I went to a one teacher school in one room with 16 -20 students. There was a very small library, but like you it wasn't until about 12 yrs old after we moved from the farm to a town did I discover the wonder of a library. Favourite books in those days - and still in fact - includes anything by Mary Grant Bruce, an Australian writer.

  8. Libraries were a lynch pin in my childhood. Maybe my most fond memories of childhood revolve around them. Thank you for bringing these back.