This Christmas season, Clare at the Literary Omnivore is celebrating libraries. We here at Shelf Love are extremely partial to libraries. We believe in what they stand for and have always stood for: access to information, to technology, and perhaps most of all to books. Here in the United States, libraries are one of our few really populist institutions: anyone can walk in and begin to learn, to borrow, to enjoy, and to read. So along with Clare, we are taking this opportunity of the first annual Bochus Yule (Library Christmas) to donate to our local libraries, and to share some of our favorite memories about those wonderful places. Clare has a Mr. Linky on her blog post, and the hashtag #bochusyule for Twitter. Join us! Donate to your local library. Donate time. Donate books. Donate money. Then let them give back!
Teresa: My first library was located in what was once a house behind the city hall in the small town I lived near when I was little. It was a charming place, especially for children. To get to the children’s section, you had to climb a set of winding stairs that led to the second floor. The first room you reached was a large room with dormer windows, each with a comfy bean-bag seat for reading. That room held chapter books and young adult books, but the real magic was in the room behind it, where the picture books lived. This room, which had to have once been storage space, had sloped ceilings that were so low adults couldn’t stand up straight unless they were short and stood right in the middle of the room. It felt like a child’s space, and I felt right at home there. The library later moved to a large warehouse-style building, which was less magical, but still held wonderful memories because I was a library volunteer the summer of the move and got to help shelve all the books as they were brought in.
Ever since, I’ve been a library addict. I don’t use it as much as I used to these days, but there were times in the past when I had absolutely no room in my budget for books or video rentals, and I counted on my local libraries to feed my need to read. And during some difficult years libraries were a place where I could go to feel at peace, surrounded by books. Something about wandering the stacks, picking up books and reading a few pages here and there, would calm me right down in times of stress. At one point, I had library cards for three separate systems, and I visited at least one or two library branches just about every week.
In honor of Bochus Yule, I plan to donate a large bag of books to the library for their Friends of the Library sale.
Jenny: Wow, you had an idyll of a library! My childhood library was much more urban: the Burke Branch Library in Alexandria, Virginia. Downstairs, in a windowless basement, they had the kids’ books, and upstairs was the adult section. I remember exactly where everything was housed, even to which shelf my very favorite books were on. I could have found them in my sleep. Each week, I’d go and get a paper grocery bag full of books, read them all week, return them the following week, and fill my bag again. One summer, I had my picture in the local paper for having read the most books in our library summer-reading program. Who, me? A library nerd?
These days, I still visit the library every week. I’ve gone from a paper bag to an enormous canvas tote, but I still fill it with children’s books — for my own children. I estimate that 95% of the new books our family reads come from the library. If I can’t find it at my own branch, I borrow it from another; if it’s not in my system, I get it through interlibrary loan. I do it this way partly because of my budget, partly because of my space restraints, and partly because of my principles: if there are free books available for people in my community, I want to make sure they stay available for everyone, including me. And if there were still prizes for reading the most books in a summer-reading program, I’d eagerly try to go home with the crown.
In honor of Bochus Yule, I plan to make a donation to my local Public Library Foundation, an endowment that supports the library’s long-term needs. Thanks, Clare, for offering this opportunity! What about you all? What are you going to do? And Merry Bochus Yule to you all (ho, ho, ho.)