If I can bring you into my prosaic world: I’m writing this 35,000 feet up in my compact plane seat, tray table down, elbows in, laptop jostling on the turbulence. I’m on my way back from speaking at the annual American Library Association conference and am delirious with library love.
This was my first time attending the meeting. Michelle Obama was there. Sally Fields, too. Not to namedrop, but to namedrop. Fandemonium of this magnitude is collectively appreciated. I’d heard about the ALA gatherings, seen the hashtags on Twitter, the Facebook posts, and Instagram videos of rooms full of books and their librarian knights. But this was the first time I had the pleasure of attending to discuss the exciting releases of fall 2018.
I’ve long been a loudmouthed proponent of supporting our independent bookstores—national troves of story sharing. But when I think back about my development as a reader and writer, I didn’t grow up in bookstores. Not until college did hanging out at my local bookshop café become a trendy thing. Before then, it was libraries. Always libraries. So I hope you pardon me while I gush a spell in tribute…
All of my first books were library copies, borrowed on behalf of my mother’s library card, which was as revered and all-giving as our family bank card. Library copies had to be taken extra special care, too. No summer lemonade cups leaving dewy rings on the covers. No crinkled pages or dirty fingers while reading. The entire McCoy clan’s reputation was at stake. If abused, we might lose our privileges to the library kingdom and then what? How would I spend my leisure hours??
I distinctly remember having one decision crisis the summer after the first grade. My library copy of Tikki Tikki Tembo was due back, but I wanted to read it one last time before returning. A day late meant a fee of 10 cents, which would leave me 10 cents short of the creamsicle I’d hoped to purchase. A civilian ice cream truck was permitted to pass through our military barracks only one day a week. So that meant seven treat-less days in exchange for one more with TTT and his brother Chang. I couldn’t ask my parents for the extra bit. My mom and dad, an elementary teacher and an Army officer, did not approve of tardiness or ice cream before dinner. So the choice and the payment would be mine. [Read more…]