In the center of the UNC campus stands a statue garden. My favorite sculpture is this one of a co-ed carrying a stack of reading materials. It reminds me of pulling together a summer reading list.
I used to love participating in the summer reading program at the public library in my hometown. When I was a kid the Hill City Library was housed in the second floor of the old City Hall Building on Pomeroy Avenue. The two-story building is solidly constructed of the green Ogallala quartz that is unique to the region. The fire department occupied the ground floor of the building. To reach the library you had to ascend a set of stairs inside the absolutely silent building. I was naturally a very quiet child, yet each step I took up that stairway seemed to echo through the place as though I were a clambering monkey. The higher I climbed, the more I inhaled the dank scent of the library--a mixture of an earthen smell that likely came from the stone structure itself, and the musty-dusty book smell blended to create a scent that I never smell in a library today. It is a smell I associate with the joy I found in books especially during the summer reading program which brought me back to this magical place multiple times each week.
I remember walking the block and a half from my house to the library each week as the sun baked my shade-free route. As soon as I stepped inside the Municipal Building the cool of the stone enveloped me. I met Harriet the Spy within these walls. I discovered a love of biography; after reading about Anne Sullivan and Abraham Lincoln I felt the urge to try something worldly and shocking. To my young mind there was no one who fit the bill more completely than Marilyn Monroe, though I had seen not a single one of her movies. It took all the courage I could muster to take a book with Marilyn's iconic face plastered across the cover to the lady at the check-out desk who knew each of my siblings and both of my parents. I could not believe that she was willing to stamp the due date on the check-out card and the return date sheet firmly glued inside the front cover, and I fairly flew down the stairway that amplified each click of my feet upon the individual steps as I raced back out onto the street leading home. To this day I haven't done another thing that has left me feeling like I was taking a walk on the wild side even close to the experience of checking out that biography that I was certain everyone in town would consider risqué if only they knew my secret.
The Summer Reading Program involved the tracking of progress. I don't remember working towards any prize through reading the books over the summer other than the addition of colored circle stickers at periodic intervals along the way. The opportunity to compulsively record the completed reading was reward enough for me, nerd child that I was.
Summer reading is a habit I maintain to this day. I no longer give myself a round, colored sticker as I pass each milestone on my reading journey, still the stack of books I intend to read is no shorter than it was during the carefree summers of the late 1960s and early 70s. On the top of the summer reading pile this year is The Ogallala Road subtitled A Story of Love, Family and the Fight to Keep the Great Plains from Running Dry. Just because I no longer skip down Pomeroy Avenue in anticipation of what I will find on the library shelves, does not mean that I do long for solid answers for ways to preserve life in my dry and dwindling home town for the next little girl who is enchanted by the smell of a collection of books that offer to take her away, but instead anchor her to this time and place in memory.
What are you most looking forward to this summer?
"enchanted by the smell of a collection of books." I love it. Sounds like me this year falling in love with reading more and more and actually reading about 100 books this year so far. Happy reading. You sound like a true lover of books. Love the statue.ReplyDelete
I have always been a reader. When menopause started robbing me of sleep years ago, I used the time to read. Been devouring books at the kind of rate you describe ever since. Making lemonade from life's lemons!Delete
May... I am always taken to that place you describe so well in your writing. The musty-dusty smell of old books aroused my own senses of similar things of recollection. I love your amazing writing style! It is a gift and always has me wanting more. Keep writing friend! Keep writing! Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting.ReplyDelete
I always enjoy my visits to "your place", Carol! I will be back soon.Delete
Books are great and magical. I spend some time in the library and I definitely have a stack of books I am getting through at home. :)ReplyDelete
Somehow found myself at Barnes and Noble after writing this! I have so few vices. Book hoarder can't be that bad all things considered, right?!Delete
A great description of an older library. They did have a "smell." The one I grew up going to did seem to echo much, though. It had thick carpet on the main floor. I've been meaning to stop by my local library. The one that used to be on the Air Force that was full of old books, was closed several years ago. Prior to it's closing, I approached the city library, but when I shrunk at the $50 for a library, since I live over the city line in the county, the lady at the desk asked if I had a base I.D. (which I did), then snipped, "Well YOU can use the base library for free." It has always left me with a negative feeling toward them ever since.ReplyDelete
That is so NOT what Benjamin Franklin had in mind! I hate to hear that. The public library has been a favorite spot of mine in every city where I have lived.Delete
Oh, you and I would have been such great childhood friends!ReplyDelete
As for that scent--I was weeding books not so long ago in one of our elementary libraries, and I opened an old book and was assailed by a scent that took me right back to my childhood library. I made the library manager smell it, and we theorized about where that smell came from. We think it might be in the glue or something about the particular kind of cover that library-bound books used to have. I don't know, but I felt a bit sad for all the kids who won't ever smell it. (Kind of like the ones who will never know the heady perfume of dittos!) :-)
Lol....when the teacher would come into class after recess with a freshly printed stack of worksheets. We would place them directly to our faces and inhale deeply! No doubt that little ritual cost us some brain cells! The sense of smell via memory moves me so deeply.Delete
And, yes, I can just see the two of us meeting at the library and losing ourselves amid the stories!
What wonderful memories of a summer well spent! I love the smell of walking through the library doors. So many stories just waiting to be told!ReplyDelete
The whole world should have access to a good library!Delete