I first fell in love with the library when I was in the fourth grade. Before fourth grade I can’t remember ever going to the library at all. My father had always purchased our books from the store. He would buy us any books that we wanted, usually whatever was part of the selection from the Woolworth’s store or sometimes Sears & Roebuck. Our grandparents had purchased a set of encyclopedias for us, that we read often because no one had told us that encyclopedias weren’t good reading. So the first time that I was able to walk to the library on my own with my two younger sisters following behind, I felt so excited. Maybe it was because I was in love with books or it could have been a feeling of maturity that I was experiencing. I was now old enough to lead my sisters, on an expedition to the library, on a hot summer’s day, three blocks away from our home. The nearness of the library did not matter to me, those three blocks seemed like three miles as far as I was concerned.
Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, it was not always recommended that you go outside and play. Our back yard was full of flowers, big beautiful, red roses that were my mother’s pride and joy. She forbid us to touch those roses, and she knew that if she allowed us, at least one of us would try to see what the roots of the plant looked like. So we had to play on the front of the house on the side walk. My father did not have a favorable view of his children running up and down the streets by themselves–so he encouraged us to stay inside of the house–where he knew that we would be safe. I don’t remember ever being bored at home as children say they are today. Our house was filled with books. radio, and R & B albums. We each (4 girls) had our own television to watch and skates, bikes and friends were always welcome to play in our basement.
But now I digress, back to the library and the day that I fell in love with it. I traveled quickly down the street so it was sometimes hard for my younger sister (she was two years younger than me) to keep up, so I hoisted her onto my back and continued my trek. My other sister was less than one year younger than me (we were Irish twins) so she did not have any trouble keeping my pace.
When we finally arrived at our destination we both hesitated outside the door. My sister and I peered in through the glass door. I didn’t know then that our library was considered small when compared to other libraries. It was a store front library. Two large glass windows made up the front of the building. There were two large rooms with books shelved in every space. Looking back now there couldn’t have been more than a couple thousand books at that library, but to me, it looked enormous. I took my sister from my back and stood her in front of the door so that she could see inside. I then took her by the hand, motioned for my other sibling to follow and pushed the heavy glass door open. A gust of cool air brushed my face as I stepped inside, and I instinctively knew that I would always like a placed filled with books. Yes I would always love a library. It has never changed.