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On visiting my public library (and bringing home some old friends)

I’m lucky — I live right next to a beautiful, fairly new public library, and sadly, I rarely use it.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about making a career change.  I have a good job, but events in the last couple of weeks have me thinking about new ways to make a living.  And if a career change IS in my future, it’s time to start borrowing books rather than buying them.

I also wanted to look at some books on poetry, writing, maybe even how to write good book reviews.  I found a cool book called  Careers for Bookworms & Other Literary Types; which in case you’re interested, has chapters on Library Careers, Publishing Careers, Internet Careers, Reading Careers, Research Careers, and a few others. If I find it useful I’ll let you know.

It was kind of fun getting my library card — now a key fob thingie like those grocery store cards.  I discovered that my library is having a blood drive at the end of the month, and I even asked about Kindle books and when they’d be available (the answer: soon).  Rediscovering the library felt really good.

I spent a LOT of time in the public library as a child.  We weren’t able to buy a lot of books, certainly not enough to keep up with my habit.  My Dad would take my sister and me every weekend and I’d bring home what I could carry.

In times of stress, just “visiting” the children’s section of  a public library makes me feel better.  It’s the equivalent of hot chocolate and a blanket (or maybe a Jack and Coke).  The wonderful thing about libraries is they still carry the same children’s books I read as a child 30-some years ago.  I don’t mean the same titles — the same BOOKS.   So wandering through the aisles, seeing these old books with their old library binding and familiar illustrations (and yes, that worn book smell) make me feel like a kid again.

I only bring home the old ones even though there are plenty of newer books I’d like to read.  It was hard but I stopped myself at these three:

The “B is for Betsy” series by Carolyn Haywood was horribly dated when I read them in the 70s-80s.  I’m not sure why I loved this series so much, since I didn’t read a lot of typical “girl” books and these are as typical as you get.  Betsy, Star, Ellen and Eddie… they’re the children’s book equivalent of Leave it to Beaver.  Maybe I loved them because they’re so ideal — and maybe because their perfect life is just as “fantastic” as the other books I’ve listed here. Yes, these are dated — they don’t hold up well over time, especially in their very limited characterization of African-Americans.  Maybe, like Nancy Drew, the newer versions have gotten an update.

(Note the eerie-looking cat head on the picture of Betsy’s Busy Summer.  Sammy was pretty interested in this whole picture-taking process.)

Have you read the old Mary Poppins series?  If not, I can tell you that Mary bears NO resemblance to Julie Andrews.  The books in this series are dark, scary and very magical, not sugary-sweet like the Disney version.

The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key is my first memory of reading science fiction.  It’s this haunting story about a boy who falls through a door into our world but can’t remember his own world.  That’s about all I remember but I can’t wait to see if I enjoy it as much as I did then.  Key also wrote Escape to Witch Mountain, another favorite.

For some reason the library books I love the most aren’t necessarily the best children’s books — maybe because I owned those.  I think they’re the ones with the most vivid illustrations — like Carl Sandburg’s Rutabaga Stories — or the ones that were so strange I would never have read them if they weren’t free  — like Maria Looney and her Remarkable Robot (which sadly, was not on the shelves yesterday).

Hope that’s a trip down memory lane for a few of you.  I’ll be heading back in a few weeks to pick up some more.  Maybe the library visit can be a regular here at The Book Stop.

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