Monday, February 21, 2011

An Ode to the Library

As I lug 50 pound bag of books across the street or around the corner
the kids running ahead or lagging behind
I don't mind the weight because I know four small hands will soon put it all in the book drop
taking peaks in the slot hoping to see hands on the other side whisking away the volumes

The empty bag will droop from my shoulder as I lag behind the kids
already at the top of the stars
They run ahead and make their rounds (puppet theater, discovery table, reading table)
Making sure all their favorite spots are still intact
And looking to see what's new, different

I wander off, filling the bag as I go
From zero to fifty pounds
Thrilling at small discoveries and looking around for an adult to whom I can gush about the genius of the children's librarians
I hold my tongue, deciding not to divulge the secrets I have sussed out since we became more than occasional visitors

The abecedarians and counting books perch on their own shelf
Neat ABC and 123 spine labels setting them apart from the rest of the story books to come.
Next come the Mother Goose books
which I bypass
though I know someone will be glad to find them
The two year old is making a quick stop at the drawing table
before following me along to the section of holiday books
(What a nice idea, why don't all libraries do this?)

I lose the toddler as I pass down the magical aisle of 398.2
A whole row of fairy tales and folk stories
Standing apart from the rest of the Dewey Decimals
A gateway between the JEasy storybooks and the serious world of nonfiction
(I wonder if anybody ever thought of putting 811 Poetry in it's own aisle
a sentry in verse between the whole rest of the Youth Library
and the edgy corner of the Young Adult Section)

One of the librarians smiles and asks if I need any help
Not this time, but the next time I am looking for patience-themed literature
or my daughter needs to find books on runic alphabet systems
I will seek out her
or one of the other Oracles in the children's section

Before I make my way to the special shelves with themes that the librarians have divined are important this season
I pass by the seven year old, sitting on a cushioned bench for one
at the end of a row
Engrossed in a book she didn't know existed until she walked by it
a few minutes ago

As I cruise around the chapter book section
My toes curl with joy, sure that my children's librarians are the only ones smart enough
to give shorter chapter books there own wall
so kids who are beyond the controlled words of a Dr. Seuss Reader but not yet ready for the wider world of Harry Potter, the Phantom Tollbooth, and the Rats of Nimh
Can still read big kid books and stretch their reading muscles

Making sure to give the JEasy+ shelves a little attention
(I always worry that others haven't discovered this section of picture books with more words 
about slavery, World War II, child labor, Anti-Semitism...) 
I quickly peruse the CDs, looking for Beethoven for Kids and the Red Balloon.

The bag is now too full for anything but the board books the two year keeps running up to stuff inside
I realize I haven't looked at the community table in a while and take a look at the stacked flyers
(After all being a purveyor of information to the community is the heart of a public library)
I find both kids sitting on the floor in front of the shelf that inexplicably
(but probably because of space)
contains both manga and extra-large board books
- one is reading Kilala Princess and the other is looking at Wheels on the Bus.

This time, I don't have an extra set of big hands
so I bypass the blue canvas bags, each filled with books all about music, or nature, or our bodies
-relics from a time when there was staff enough to take books into local preschools
Now there for families

I try to sneak over to the checkout table without picking up an extra set of helping hands
And feel a wave of anxiety
not because of the new self-checkout system
but because I might have missed that gem that will be checked out for the next two months.

As I wrote this, I was taking a mental tour of the Santa Cruz Public Library Central Branch, but my family visits most of the other branches of the City-County Public Library System and their Children's Sections contain similar secrets and hidden corners. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your support of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries. We love hearing how our patrons are using the Libraries.