Dear public library: I miss you. Will you take me back even though I own a Kindle, have a reading list on my phone, and have recently joined Goodreads? You’ve got things they don’t have–they don’t have “the smell of books” and I can’t “feel or hear” the page as I turn. They also don’t have the “shush” from the librarian sound either or the visual of seeing people of all ages sitting around and smiling as they read.
The other day while making a quick errand I rode past my public library. Man, I almost swerved into the turn lane. Sadly, it’s been almost a year since my feet went inside. It was one of those moments that signalled that I needed a life change.
I love the public library, in fact, without the public library being a rock in my childhood, I’m not sure how I would’ve turned out. Librarians knew me by name and saved books in my favorite series for me or put back books they thought I might enjoy. For years I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up, and I spent many a night in Critical Care Units (an RN) wondering why I changed my mind. Books, libraries, and yes, librarians were my life preservers. Now, my Mom didn’t drop me off there, I rode miles on my bike on my own accord to pickup and return books. My love of books didn’t come from a parent, it came from within. I’ve written articles here, here, and here about readers and how I raised two male readers. Both remain avid readers to this day. I wanted them to know where the real magic resides in this world and that a travel destination doesn’t have to mean getting on a plane.
Sadly, if we, booklovers, don’t use the library how long do you think they’ll last as we zoom toward the future? It’s not too late to make the library important again if you’ve lost touch.
Tips To Make Going to the Library an Event:
1. Book-loving parents should make the journey to the library a “main event” and set the example of reading in the household. I won’t be snobbish here and say reading magazines doesn’t count, your reading habit just needs to get noticed by your kids. Parental habits signal importance to children. Browse the magazines while the kids explore the book realm. Don’t rush them and practice patience. Make getting their library card an event worthy of a picture that’s not only sent to family and friends but also framed, to remind them of a signature milestone in their life. How can we reader-parents take pictures of the first hair cut and not the first library card?
2. If your child can read, ask them to read their book to you while you make dinner. Follow the story line and laugh appropriately, and ask questions. It’s far better to leave out an ingredient than to send the message that listening to your child read ranks lower than adding butter. If they can’t read, read to them, and then ask them to color a picture about the story while you cook dinner. Readers Rock, right? ( I know, alliteration, but I’m not changing it).
3. Like spam, bribing works. Promise to play games with them, even video games, if they will go to the library with you and help you choose a book. Once inside tell them now that they’ve helped you, that you’d like to help them find a favorite book. Readers score higher on achievement tests, don’t omit the importance of regular reading while they’re young.
4. Get to know a librarian by name. Introduce yourself and your child. The moment names are exchanged the visit becomes more personal and memorable.
I never in a million years thought I’d go longer than a week before going to the library. Yeah, I’m writing books now, but that’s no excuse. Once I dreamed of being traditionally published, so I could see my book on a library shelf. I haven’t given up, but I’m hoping to find a self-published book on the shelf during my first “getting back together” visit. All I know is that I miss the “smell” of hundreds of books, I miss the anticipation of standing on tip-toes and reaching for a great book, and the sound of a librarian reading in an exaggerated voice to young children.
Public library, I’m sorry I fell in love with Barnes and Nobles and then Books-a-Million, will you please take me back? I’m sorry I let my library card expire, okay, I lost it. I promise to renew it and “haunt the stacks” at least once a week. To offer support, I’ll let my books go over due a few days so you can make extra revenue. All I ask is that you stay in place so that I can bring my grandkids in for a visit one day. See you soon.
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