Chocolate Can Kill (Emily Harris Mysteries) by Annie Acorn
All of my life, I have been surrounded by books. Walls full of shelves in my childhood homes overflowed with them. Table tops here and there were adorned with them. Occasionally, one would show up on the kitchen table and remain there.
Those of you who follow this blog know that my own home is replete with them. [ATOW: Talks Stuff and Nonsense] My maternal grandmother worked for a publishing company, and much of her work found its way into her home permanently. My paternal grandmother had books peppered around her as well, and a favorite bookcase from her home still remains full of well-read volumes within sight of me.
You would think that we would’ve been quite happy browsing through our own shelves, but oh, no! Nothing would do, but that all of us would venture forth in some sort of obsessed search for still more.
One of my earliest memories is accompanying my father on foot the few blocks that it took to walk from my maternal grandmother’s home to Wabash College’s library. Here we would visit with the elderly librarians he had worked for as a student before he married my mother, a local girl, and left for the big city and graduate school. Is it any wonder that years later I worked at both Emory University’s and the University of Tennessee’s library? Obviously, this acorn didn’t fall far from that tree.
A couple of years later, I found myself in Mrs. Figgin’s First Grade class at Walter Louis Stevenson Grade School in Columbus, Ohio. The head librarian stopped by before naptime on the second day of the school year and explained that once we knew how to read we could come to the school library and check out a book.
Now, I had spent most of my formative years surrounded by a plethora of adults and was already reading at a fourth grade level. When the dismissal bell rang, I walked through our classroom doorway and turned right for the library, instead of left for my home.
The top of the librarian’s oak desk hit me at chin level, but the stacks of books spread across its surface required her to rise from her chair to see me over them.
“May I help you?” She peered down at me.
“You said we could check out a book once we could read,” I replied.
I am very grateful that this woman, who was obviously quite busy, didn’t laugh at me, but she didn’t. I left her library with my confidence intact. Instead, she pulled a storybook from a dangerously high stack and asked me to read, which I did.
Impressed, she agreed to help me find a book, not blinking an eyelid when I explained that I would like to check out a biography of Sacagawea. The book I proudly carried home had a navy blue replacement binding, and I still remember its thickness in my hand, the texture of the cloth, and the smell of its pages.
The following summer Father’s new job required that we move to East Tennessee. [When to Remain Silent] Mother quickly enrolled me in the public library’s summer reading program. Each book that I read allowed a small yellow Smokey Bear with my name inscribed on it to climb one spot closer to the top of a huge construction paper mountain that was thumbtacked to a back wall in the Children’s Corner. I still have my yellow Smokey Bear Reading Journal tucked away with other treasured items from my childhood.
When I earned my driver’s license at the age of sixteen, my parents allowed me to drive solo for the first time to this same library. A few minutes after my arrival, I looked up from a reference book at just the right moment to see Father steer our other family vehicle into the parking spot next to mine, where he disembarked and checked out the car I had driven for scratches or dents before he drove home again, apparently satisfied.
Years later I joined my family in Maryland en route to a reunion in Ocean City. A tall stack of books on Russia greeted me upon arrival in my parents’ living room. The Russian mother-in-law of one of Mother’s friends was coming to visit, and my mother had checked out a “few” books from the library for some background reading prior to meeting her friend’s company. Having majored in History back before time, I was drawn to a 1000 page history of the Romanoff’s, which I blissfully hauled along with me to the reunion, giving a whole new meaning to the term beach read. Obviously, this acorn hadn’t fallen far from that tree either.
My husband’s job in retail management often required us to move to new cities, and the public library was one of the first places that I and my two young sons would visit. Summer reading programs provided a great place for them to meet some new friends before school started, and I never felt lonely separated from friends and family when I could lose myself within the pages of a new mystery in a series that I loved.
Often the local public library provided me with an intro to a new writers’ group, although this didn’t work out quite so well when I moved to Olney, Maryland. Inquiring as to whether or not they had a writers’ group meeting at their facility, the librarian misunderstood my southern accent and handed me a pamphlet on a local riders’ group.
Sadly, this same library has been closed for remodeling for the better part of two years with no sign of construction activity, as Montgomery County – one of the country’s richest – has insufficient funds to complete the work that has already been started. And public libraries aren’t the only ones feeling the tight economy that has become our new reality. Many of the grade schools in this area no longer have functioning libraries, and the high school “media centers” are way understaffed compared to levels of a few years ago.
If you follow my posts, you will know that I don’t often get onto my own little version of a Bully Pulpit, but if our schools are moving towards no longer teaching students to write, are they going to stop teaching them to read as well? Are other countries following suit? Inquiring minds want to know.
Proponents of these changes say that the computer makes such things obsolete, but I object. No one can say that I haven’t embraced the new technologies, but I can’t help but be reminded of a song I was taught as a Girl Scout – “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver, and the other’s gold.” Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water, as my grandmothers and great-aunt used to say.
In the meantime, I will continue to lend out books of my own and write more that will be available thanks to the miracle of the internet to those who no longer have a public library in their area. But still…
I can’t help but think that somewhere there is a little girl or boy, who will never know the joy of having a tiny Smokey Bear with their name inscribed on it reach the top of a huge construction paper mountain that has been thumbtacked to the back wall of the Children’s Corner in their local public library.
A Tired Older Woman: Loses Weight and Keeps It Off! by Annie Acorn
Also available for NOOK!
When to Remain Silent (Annie Acorn’s Kindle Short Mysteries) by Annie Acorn
Also available for NOOK!