Thursday, July 05, 2007

People Whispered

By Lynne

It looked like a small castle with its blocky stone exterior and long windows. Inside, it was cave-quiet, it smelled old and full of secrets. Until I was eighteen, the library I visited regularly held only shelves and shelves of books; there were no movies or music or toys to check out. And back then, people whispered.

Though I haven't been inside it for years, I still love the Gale Free Public Library. There are no cobwebs over these memories. I see a dark-eyed me lost in a first floor wing chair, reading the latest book in the Betsy Series. Occasionally I'd look around, thinking about my grandmother who was rumored to spend her days here, it having once been the town high school. Did I sit in the chair she sat in? Had I checked out a book she'd touched? Black Beauty. The Treasury of Dogs.

I love libraries. My daughter and I make day trips to the special ones throughout our area, spending hours browsing, reading. Sitting in most, it's easy to see that more than the architecture and the furniture have changed. Carols now hold computers, children aren't content with an array of picture books, and people talk like they're in a mall, not a library. These physical libraries aren't all that's changed.

Enter the virtual library. Months back after a round of blog reading, I came across Library Thing. This online website allows you to build your own bookshelves containing books you've read, and those you would like to read. You have the ability to rate your reads, and even list your recommendations on your blog or website.

Here are the five books I've read most recently, and they way it appears on a blog.

To me there will never be a comparison between the church-like atmosphere of my grandmother's and my childhood library. Don't get me wrong, the virtual library is great fun, after all I'm recommending it. To me, it's an altogether different experience. One that doesn't have the power to tickle the senses. Or evoke a memory. Or remind me of a restful, peaceful summer day reading in a library full of books and history.

What are your favorite libraries? Favorite books?


Lisa said...

I spent summers at my grandmother's house and went to the Dedham Public Library in Massachusetts at least once or twice a week. The building on Church Street was granite and over 100 years old even then. It was always cool inside, a refuge from the summer heat and I would spend long afternoons there soaking in the silence and that rich book smell before checking out my haul and walking back home. It was like church.

kristen spina said...

I've never been big on libraries. I've always preferred to own my books--especially those that are favorites. Just last week, however, I took my son to the local library and got him a library card. He's already checked out 7 books! And his excitement over the possibilities, the endless stacks, the sense of discovery, has made me rethink my owndership position. Now we shall have it both ways.

And favorite books? Bram Stoker's Dracula has always been in my top ten. I think people who haven't read it have an idea that it is something it's not. A more recent favorite is The Piano Tuner by Daniel Mason.

Lynne Reeves Griffin said...


You're right, it was always cool inside. It's nice to hear other's memories of the library in summer. I could write an entire post on our neighborhood bookmobile.


I'm glad your son has shown you a new perspective. By all means--have it both ways.


Therese said...

Lynne, your post evokes memories of the Rock Island Public Library, where I spent many summer afternoons in my youth. I'd ride my bike the half dozen miles from my house gladly--it was cool inside, and quiet, and all about books.

I would find a similar escape, a few years later, in the Clark Air Base library during the three years I lived in the Philippines.

The buildings could not have been more different; RI was two stories, and stone--as the oldest of Illinois' libraries, it has presence. The CAB library was in essence a long, narrow hut on stilts. But I loved both, as they were my sanctuaries.