Books Friends Libraries

The public library as a rite of passage

The library is a mainstay in so many communities. Read about what they mean to Project BFF co-founder Terri.

In every city, town and village, there are those buildings and services at the heart of the community. You can probably pinpoint where they are located in the community where you live or grew up – – the bank, the post office, the firehouse, police station, houses of worship, gas station, grocery store. Always just a quick drive, or a walk, away.

The public library is also a mainstay of so many communities. For myself and my siblings, we were in elementary school when we first visited the library, accompanied by our parents or grandparents.  They taught us how to navigate this busy, and yet hushed, place filled with shelves so high they reached the ceiling. We’d gaze up at stacks, and learned how to use them as a guide to the sections with books that appealed the most to us and our interests. And, then we learned we could borrow as many books as we wanted to take home – – for free! 

But, wait. It got better! 

It required a library card to bring home these hard-covered treasures, which were carefully selected from the shelves. And that’s when it happened – – we each received a card with our name on it!  That card granted each of us the ability to check-out books, and each card was unique to each child.  (And, if you received a wallet for your birthday, you finally had something to put in it!)

Later in childhood, visits to the library with my siblings meant we were each going to get some quiet time, and we’d head off in separate directions towards the aisles that held the books with our favorite authors, or topics, for us to browse, pick a few, and then take out that cherished card to make them our own for a while.

We survived the high school and college years at the library, where the visits represented finding the right information for a project, exam or paper. Somehow, even with the wide range of digital material available, we’d still find our way to the library which would also serve as a place to get some peace and quiet away from a roommate in particular, or the dorm in general.

Today, visiting the library is almost a leisure time activity. Stepping through the doors is a return to that busy, yet hushed, place we marveled at as children. Now, however, it’s a welcome change from the increasingly noisy world around us. The selves don’t appear to be as towering as they once had, but they still hold the books that appeal the most to us and our interests. It’s an indulgence we should give ourselves as often as we can.

By: Terri Birkeland

Photo by Joe Ciciarelli on Unsplash

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