Our first post on the new Buhl Library blog could not be more appropriate to celebrate a love of libraries and reading. Below Kathleen, a senior library student worker shares her love and experience of growing up in her local library. What memories do you have of your local library growing up? Share with us in the comments section!
I grew up in the Poconos on the east side of Pennsylvania, where there a lot of trees and a ton of grass, but not very many places you can walk to. The library I lived near when I was growing up was exactly a fifteen minute drive away, and tiny. The “Big Library” was all the way in town, and so we didn’t go there as often.
Because it was close and everyone in my family liked libraries and books to some extent, we went to the “Little Library” a lot. My favorite thing about that library was actually how small it was. There were about four sections of books—children, young adult, adult, and nonfiction—and these sections crowded each other and overlapped with no clear sense of where anything began or ended.
Whenever we visited the library, my sister and I had a book system, scanning through the shelves in the children and young adult book sections, trading books with each other when we found ones we liked better than those we had already picked out. My brother lingered in front of all the VHS tapes, trying to decide which Scooby Doo mystery he wanted to watch next. Our library was small, but we knew where everything was and how to find what we wanted. Despite its size, it still had more books than I could ever imagine reading.
I spent a lot of afternoons in that little, cramped library, from when I was in elementary school to the time I graduated high school. It was always either incredibly stuffy or freezing cold inside, the computers were slow, and there was a book checkout limit. But it was also always bright and cheery, even on rainy days, and it was much too small to ever get lost; it was a humble sort of library, and it stars in some of my best childhood memories.
When I went to college, my first trip to Henry Buhl Library was completely different from my library at home. It was much, much larger than any library I’d ever been in. It was so quiet I thought that unzipping my backpack was too loud. I got lost in the stacks. I didn’t know what “book on reserve” meant, and I definitely didn’t know how to use the copier.
So it was different from my library, but I wound up loving it anyway. There were so many more books than I thought there would be and there are tables and desks everywhere. There’s more selection and more space than in my library at home, and even the copier isn’t that bad once you’ve used it a couple times. I was always comfortable and happy in my library at home, and that feeling quickly translated to the library here, especially once I understood how everything worked. The library was a constant for me my freshman year, somewhere I could go to get work done and somewhere where things made sense, and it has remained a constant and a comfort to me every year since.
After my freshman year of college, I went home to discover that my little library had closed. It had moved further away, to a bigger building with a second floor and more shelf space. I didn’t have a library close by anymore, and I couldn’t ever walk back into the library of my childhood and check out a book, or scan the shelves with my sister the way I used to.
My library at home has moved on now, but I suppose I have too. And while I’ll never be able to visit my childhood library again, I’ll always remember it when I walk through the library here, and look at the books and the quiet, steady way they march along the shelves. Because if there’s one thing that will never change, whichever library you visit—there’ll always, always be books.