Friday, June 08, 2007

Looking for Love at the Library

Dare I remind you that my mother isn’t a reader? Therefore, her favorite place for an outing wasn’t the local library (or bookstore). (We have 4 libraries within a 30 minute radius and another about an hour away.) But she never really put up a fight when my sister and I asked to go.

I remember getting my first card that was made out of paper and had a metal tab that the librarian would run through a machine like those old-timey credit card receipt do-hickies. Of course, now I have my modern-day library card hanging from my key fob. Man how times have change, including the way the Dewey Decimal cards sit over in the corner collecting dust while the new generation clicks away at the Search kiosk on a keyboard to peruse the digital database. I wonder, does anyone remember microfiche? Ah, well I remember plenty of trips to my college library to hunt down an obscure text that I needed for what seemed at the time to be an equally obscure term-paper topic.

The granddaddy of public libraries here in my little Southern town has also undergone a facelift. (Pictured above is the old facade.) About two years ago, it was renovated and took over the furniture store that had stood next door for a quarter of a century. And ever since then the library doesn’t seem as homey. Sure a couple of the same landmarks are still there. The scary looking man’s painting that I used to try to avoid glancing at as a child. Not to mention the canvas portraying the richly dressed woman who I often stopped to visit, wondering—what is she thinking? And of course the basement is full of books, that I love to raid during the annual book sale to benefit the library’s programs.

I think I loved the library since my first trip so much was because I saw it as an adventure. Sure I was most likely there to do research for a school paper or book report (woohoo, my kind of homework!) but in the meantime I learned. Some of it I only recorded for the small amount of time I needed to jot down my paper (or now a days type up), but some of those snippets still stick in my gray matter like a favorite memory.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day I was wandering through the non-fiction section and saw a man sitting in one of the old straight-back chairs that didn’t have enough padding to make anyone comfortable for an extended time of reading. But this guy was hiding from the staff…because he was homeless. Many of the men and women who graced the granddaddy library’s doors were, and often sought out the site as a refuge from the weather (until the police were called). But what I remember being so odd was that he had a stack of “honor” paperback romances stacked knee high. As I stood there, peeking around the end of a row, I actually saw him reading them! A man…homeless at that…reading romance.

What a time to treasure indeed, because it seemed to throw all my vices of society, the rules of library association, and even gender biases out the window. Quite simply, I still wonder if that man was looking for love in any way, shape or form…and found it between the pages of that book.

Have you seen any strange or endearing moments take place at your local library?


Lynda K. Scott said...

Don't you love that old architecture? I often think we're losing so much of our heritage by abandoning these structures and building what I consider to be pretty sterile buildings. Sigh.

Great post, Skylar! Thanks for sharing!

Skylar Masey said...

I totally agree about the architecture! The new entrance is a pair of sliding glass doors. Not anywhere near as elegant. :0)

Now the old entrance has a bay window that is gated in, though there's also a Dentzel carousel horse blocking most of. It was a an idea put forth by the city council to add culture to downtown, since our city park is one of the few original Dentzel carousels still running/in existence.