When I was a kid, I’d ride my bike downtown to our public library, an ancient building with an equally ancient collection of books, stuffed in shelves from floor to ceiling. Usually it was just me and Mrs. Turner, the book-loving, kid-loving librarian (who must’ve been at least a hundred years old at the time, and still seemed the same age when she retired a few years ago) roaming the creaky-floored aisles, digging for books I hadn’t yet read. I’d make my choices (difficult, since I was limited to three checkouts at a time, although sometimes Mrs. Turner would make an exception), she’d stamp the due dates, and I’d head off on my bike, so eager to plunge into new vicarious adventures that I often couldn’t wait till I got home, instead careening recklessly down the sidewalk as I balanced an open book between my handlebars. (NOTE: Reading while riding a bicycle is possible, but rarely successful.)
Fast forward thirty years, and I’m still roaming the aisles of the public library. Same town, many of the same books, shiny new building—which is dedicated to Mrs. Turner, and rightly so. But now I’m hardly the only patron. The place is fairly rocking every time I go in. And these days, besides the head librarian, there are at least three or four other library employees checking out or reshelving books at any given time. The floors are even and the shelves easier to reach (which is progress and probably a good thing, although I miss the creaks, squeaks, and rickety library ladder; I also kinda miss the musty smell, although if I crack open one of the older books, I can still get a good whiff of it). My heart swells when I see so many people making use of one of my very favorite places.
Still, I can’t help noticing the crowd is mostly concentrated around the computers rather than the books.