Tuesday, March 17, 2015

For the love of libraries

I love the smell of books. Not new books. New books I love to hear the small creaking sound when I crack the pages open for the first time and run my hand down the crease of the spine, lovingly, a few times over.

I love the smell of old books. It smells like grandmother’s attic. It smells what I would imagine Sherlock Holmes’ house to smell like. Or the 1800’s in general. I grab one and inhale. Inhale again, sigh, a musty story-lovers high.

Where I am? The library. It may be a slowing fading modern relic to some but not for me. There is nowhere else in the world where I get the same feeling as I do when pass through city hall’s courtyard and walk through those doors. So many books! So many smells! 

And then? The treasure hunt begins. I go to a magic portal. I type in a few words about a story I want to know more about and wah lah! A code pops out! I know where to find it. I write down my coordinates on a scrap piece of paper with a small eraser-less pencil and I am off. Moving through rows and rows of other treasures. Passing by fellow treasure seekers until I get to THE row. I slow down my gait and creep forward wanting to extend the search just a little bit more. I kneel down to look and, oh no! It’s not there! I look down again and re-check, breathing a sigh of relief. I was looking at the 3 when it says 9. I creep forward, looking again and… X marks the spot!

Tablets don’t give you a treasure hunt. Kindles don’t smell like grandma’s attic. Technology just doesn’t do it for me. Maybe its because I am just so tried of staring at a screen all the time. I stare at work, my computer, at Netflix, on my phone. My frenemy phone.

Where else can I go and walk into a room weighted with action packed silence? Where else can I walk by that antiquated cabinet full of local high school memorabilia? (Or in my case growing up, visiting the back corner where the headdress and arrowheads were kept.) Where else can I wonder why exactly does that person need the private soundproof see-through study room? Where else can I see people from all walks of life?

And tonight there is much to see. A gentleman wearing sunglasses with a side missing while indoors. Two ladies with funky hats giggling in a corner. A man designing a beautiful geometric construction on the computer with a large suitcase at his side. The lady at the desk with the white blinged-out nails. A man with tattoos flipping through pages.  An artist working furiously with his pastels. I creep closer pretending to look at tax forms. He is drawing a Picasso-like sea creature. His case is almost as old as my book.

My book. Not my treasure. This is something I picked up along the way. I grabbed the oldest book I could find. Partly to assure it that it still matters. This one is called “For the Children’s’ Hour.” It was written by two women kindergarten teachers published in 1917. Copyright 1906. Who were these women? Why did they write the book? What happened to them?

This is why I love the library. I get to be alone and quiet without really being alone. I am surrounded by thousands stories and the people who wrote them. All treasures to someone.
I open a page to bonus treasure and do what many have done. Open in the middle and read the first line I see. “I wish I were a prince. I want to ride in a carriage with a golden umbrella held over my head.” I smile and close the book, lifting it to my nose. I continue walking through the rows of treasure, the golden umbrella over my head.  

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