I saw this post, which is called “A love letter to my first library,” and I thought, well, it’s shameful confession time for me.
I don’t love my first library.
My first library was adequate.
I loved going to the library. I wanted to go to the library more, ever more. We went no less often than fortnightly, usually weekly, and it was a treat, a highlight, always. When I was the size of child without perspective on managing household tasks, whichever parent had just taken me to the library had a halo, as though they had not arranged it between them: “I’ll stop by Target and pick up shampoo and Scotch tape while she’s at church choir, and then we can go to the library and the bank on the way home,” or whatever the errand list was that week. Whichever parent hadn’t gotten the library rotation would hear, “Daddy! Mommy took me to the library!” or, “Mommy, guess where Daddy and I went?” Because when you’re 4 years old and perpetually book-short, “Why don’t we go to the library?” is one of those suggestions that can only be met with, “HOLY CRUD YES HOW BRILLIANT I LOVE YOU YOU ARE THE BEST PARENT EVER.” Every. Single. Time.
But the library itself? It was brown and small; it was quiet and had the right kind of quiet that libraries should have, and it had the right kind of booky smell that libraries should have. But it also had a horrible habit of stocking books two and seven of whatever series you wanted to read, and I had already read most of what was there before I could really remember being old enough to read it. This was in Omaha, where literature and education are less a priority than they are here. Their library system was extremely sporadic about use of the rocket ship or atom stickers that most science fiction readers talk about, so I didn’t really connect with genre as a marker of things I liked until I had a moment of epiphany when I was much older. They had the barbaric practice of limiting children to ten books at a time, under which system I chafed horribly. I read no more slowly then than I do now, but children’s books are shorter, so I would end up rereading whatever I’d liked of the ten books several times in the week, plus several of my own books at home. And interlibrary loan was a thing of dreams then. If it wasn’t there, well, it wasn’t. You went to the library to get what was at the library. Other branches? What other branches?
So I spent much of my childhood yearning for Grandpa’s library, because what you wanted was already there. With adult perspective, this is not because I went there less often, although of course that helped. Grandpa’s main library was the Hennepin County one by Brookdale, although he also went to the little one in Brooklyn Park. It really was gigantic. It really was full of wonders. Objectively, it is an amazing library. And this was readily apparent to me from the time I was first taken there, which was when I was very, very small, because it was readily apparent to Grandpa that I was the sort of small person who liked the kinds of outings he liked pretty much immediately.
So my first library, my home library when I was small…doesn’t have the traditional “I grew up to be an author” library magic. It was a good place. I liked going there. It was enough for me to like it. Sometimes a like letter is enough.