I Love My Library

As I write this, we are in a deep, record breaking freeze across much of North America. The days are still short and it’s menacingly cold. So I’m spending my free time hunkering down under the covers with books. 

In the past few years I’ve become a voracious reader, enjoying a personal library of several hundred titles on my handy Kindle Paperwhite. I’m usually in the middle of three or four books, and love downloading samples of anything that sounds remotely interesting. 

And while I love my Kindle, I also love my local public library. 

I’ve been a member of a public library since I was a very small child. I have vivid memories of my mother pushing me in a baby carriage, and later a stroller, on weekly visits to the Mermaid Avenue branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. My mother would take out a stack of fiction books and magazines for herself as well as children’s books that I would pick out. I relished in her reading these bedtime stories to me, many of which have become enduring classics of children's literature: The Snowy Day , Where the Wild Things Are, books about Madeline,  Eloise , and my favorites, Lyle the Crocodile and Harry the Dirty Dog. These, along with the many wonderful Golden Books passed down from my sister, gave me the best start to literacy a child could have. I’m sure the colorful illustrations inspired my artistic side.

I recall the day I was finally eligible for a library card. I must have been five or six, and I was so proud to have that laminated card with the large “BPL” on one side and my scrawley childish signature on the back. I could take it anywhere is Brooklyn and get books! Not that I ever did, but I could

In reality our family would routinely visit two libraries, the aforementioned Coney Island branch and the Brighton Beach branch, which was smaller, but no less wondrous. The library was always a stop during our epic shopping trips to Brighton Beach Avenue. We’d visit multiple produce stands, the tiny Royal Farms supermarket, perhaps stop for lunch, buy some household supplies at Woolworth’s and of course finish with a stop at the library. It was my reward for enduring all the “schlepping” around.  I loved their children’s section, with the child-sized tables and chairs and the special librarian just for kids. As I progressed through school I moved on to picking out chapter books and children’s magazines, the shelves I frequented getting ever closer to the adults’ section.

Everywhere I've been, even during college, I've always made sure I had access to a library and a valid card. I often visited the Bon Air Library near our first apartment in Richmond, which, even 30 years later, I sometimes return to. There was the lovely old Southworth Library with its wrought iron staircases, in Dryden, New York. I took my own young children there  for reading adventures, and to obtain their first library cards.  And for the past fourteen years I’ve had the pleasure of being a member of the beautiful Powhatan County Library, which graciously supplies me with an endless and eclectic supply of new books and magazines, and has the best woodland views for reading, writing and daydreaming. 

If you haven’t cultivated the library habit, make 2018 the year you give it a try! Good libraries get a healthy cycle of new books, videos and all sorts of media, including content you can subscribe to for free on your mobile device. Librarians are amazing resource people who provide a variety of services and ways to connect with knowledge. 

Public library cards are generally free to obtain, and they literally open up a world of possibilities to you and the children in your life. Take it from someone who has spent over half a century enjoying the bounties of our public libraries. Want to improve your life for free?  Make use of your local public library!

My current library haul. How am I gonna have time for all this? It’s a nice problem to have.

My current library haul. How am I gonna have time for all this? It’s a nice problem to have.

Connie Kottmann