In Praise of Libraries and Bookmobiles | National Library Week

The only thing you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.
~ Albert Einstein

It's National Library Week.

National Library Week
National Library Week

I don't know about you, but several libraries played a role in my love of reading and, yes, writing. During National Library Week, I want to pay homage to Andrew Carnegie, a wealthy industrialist who believed in sharing his wealth by helping others. Among those institutions founded through his contributions are the buildings housing many of our country's libraries.

Initially, architecturally these buildings were similar in design and construction. However, as times changed and styles changed, so did the buildings housing the Carnegie libraries. It was never the building that made the library; it was the books inside and the people who maintained the library.

Let us hope the digitalized world of today never impacts the value and history of our library system in this country.

the Nashville Public Library, East Branch

My father had opened the covers of books for me long before I knew what the word "library" meant. Together we traveled to imaginary places, met imaginary people, and dreamed imaginary tales.

But the day Daddy took me to the East Branch of the Nashville Public Library (featured image above), he opened doors and windows on the world for me. This house of books would become my home away from home.

I loved the smells when you opened the front doors--leather bindings, paper and ink, and dust. Not that the library wasn't kept clean. Books have a knack for gathering dust.

The look of the books neatly organized on their shelves mesmerized me. And when I discovered some covers weren't plain but beautifully decorated with images and delicate scrolls, my breath was taken away.

Most of all, I loved having a library card. At age six, it denoted ownership in this place of safekeeping for books of all kinds.

When I was nine, my family left the city for the suburbs. It didn't occur to me a library did not exist near our new home. And it didn't. I was devastated. Losing my library home was far more tragic than leaving behind friends I'd known since first grade.

Our move happened as summer vacation began between third and fourth grades. Timing added to my tragedy. What would I do during the long, hot summer without books to read?

What is a bookmobile?

I don't know where Daddy learned about the library system's bookmobiles. How or where really wasn't important. He cared enough about my love of reading to find out.

Nashville Public Library Bookmobile (circa 1956)
Nashville Public Library Bookmobile (circa 1956)

From the summer of 1956 until 1966, two years after my high school graduation, my book source was the Nashville Public Library's county bookmobile service. Granted the choice of books was not immense, but you could make requests and patiently wait until the next weekly stop in your area.

The bookmobile presented students with difficulties when a research paper was assigned. The ability to sit in the library and research your topic was impossible. This required a trip to downtown Nashville to the main branch, and then there was the issue of transportation.

Still, on this National Bookmobile Day, I am forever grateful to Nashville's library system for providing this service to outlying areas. Fond memories are found in looking back on some of the books I discovered on the bookmobile.

Bigger and better libraries

The transition to college life in 1964 offered me the benefit of a library, larger than I had known before, within steps of my dorm. A large collection of books to read, use for research, and simply gaze upon was beyond my comprehension.

After college, I worked for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Here I had access to numerous libraries maintained in various departments across campus. My wildest dream came true in the ability to get access to so many kinds of books within this small city within the City of Nashville.

My next library exposure came with my work for law firms. The legal library is a totally different animal among libraries. It took some education and training to understand the volumes and volumes of case-law for the various courts as well as the other books written on various areas of the law practice. I never turned down a project that would take me into the library to research or simply do cite checking on a brief or pleading.

NEIGHBORHOOD LIBRARY (aka REtireMEnt LIBRARY)

Our neighborhood library, Ledding Library, provides us with a multitude of ways to get access to reading materials and more: books, DVDs, magazines, used book sales, summer music in the park, book groups, storytime for children, and opportunities for volunteering.

In retirement, my husband and I enjoy reading a variety of genre and despite our Kindle ownership, we continue to enjoy checking out books with paper pages and beautiful covers. Sometimes we head to Ledding to sit in the magazine section and browse current issues of our favorites. And to enjoy the quiet.

The staff is gracious and helpful, and we have made friends with some and others were already friends when they came to Ledding. Always ready to answer questions. Always ready to help.

Perhaps soon my book will live on the shelves of Ledding Library.

GRATITUDE

I am thankful for many things related to libraries, bookmobiles, and books:

  • Andrew Carnegie's generosity in building libraries across our country;
  • My dad's encouragement in loving the written word and for his introduction to the library and finding the bookmobile service;
  • The variety of libraries I've had access to during my life;
  • The people who have cared for and maintained the books and the buildings they are housed in;
  • The people who have written and/or compiled the books on those never-ending shelves.

What memories do you have about libraries in your life? Who introduced you to the library system? As a writer, how do you support your local library and is your book in that library? Share your library story below.