Monday, March 26, 2012

Can a Library Last Forever?

Do you remember your first trip to the library? When I was a child, libraries were hushed places. This lent an air of hallowedness to the whole visit. Woe be to the child who became the object of a stern librarian's admonition for silence. A dropped book was a thunderclap to be avoided at all costs.

This did not diminish my awe and wonder, however. When I was small, even a tiny neighborhood library meant endless aisles of tall stacks and long rows of books. I loved the smell of them, the feel of the covers and the special thick paper, and most of all, unpacking those treasures at home to pour over. The regret at having to return them was only lessened by the excitement of the next batch that would take their place.

Even when Emily was little, the library was a special place. It was a red letter day in her life when she was allowed to get her first library card. The requirement for this privilege? - to be able to legibly print her name on the card. She used to pull her little red wagon three blocks to our neighborhood library and trundle it home packed to overflowing. She would disappear for hours with her cargo.

In first grade, we were allowed to visit the school library and check out books. I still remember the first one I took home: Betsy and Billy by Carolyn Haywood. Twenty-five years later, I read it to Emily when she was five and a year later the Haywood books took up their share of space in that wagon.

Like everything else, libraries have changed. They're not so quiet. They're not so full of books. Audio Books, DVDs, and computers take up a lot of the floor space now. The librarians are not so stern and forbidding as they used to seem either.

The books are different too. I used to think a library was a collection of all that was best in literature. Sadly, and for reasons I will go into further in a subsequent post, libraries have become facilities for what is current and popular. Every year, more and more of these libraries close their doors for good. Not so many people visit any more. Who needs to when a download of a book is just a click away?

This is why Emily and I just spent two days at a homeschool convention meticulously combing the used book sellers' booths. We were on a hunting trip. We were looking for certain kinds of books. Old ones, loved ones, unique ones. It's getting harder and harder to do. They are becoming more and more scarce. But, they can still be found and we are hauling them home. We are filling our aisles of shelves. We want the books from days gone by to stick around despite the effort to shovel them aside to make room for the new and "better" books.

I want my grandchildren to enjoy Betsy and Billy. I want their children to know the smell and feel of a good old book. I want the great ideas and drawings and language to thrill other generations of readers coming after me. I want children in the electronic age to have something valuable to hold in their hand that can't be read at a glance instantaneously, but is meant to be savored and enjoyed and bring pleasure for years to come. I intend for a library to be more than a memory of days gone by.

For the joy of reading,


If you'd like to learn about starting a homeschool library, please visit The Library page


  1. I just came across your blog. This is wonderful! I volunteer at a christian library, which started in the owner house. Can you tell me how one could find a new location for a library? We had to move from a church where our over 20.000 resources found a home for many years and are now with only half of our books in a school. We don't have any money, so could not pay rent. Do you happened to have some wisdom you'd like to share?
    Thank you :)

  2. Michaela,
    Perhaps you'd like to join our Yahoo Group for Homeschool Libraries across the country? If so, please send an email to with a little about yourself and your library in the body of the email. We've discussed these difficulties before, and you may benefit from the collective wisdom of the librarians there.
    Emily & Liz

    1. What a wonderful idea! Thank you, I will gladly join. I didn't even know that such a group exists!