Thursday, March 28, 2013

One Morning in the Library

Most library days start out the same. The whole family is up and bustling because it is "library day." Chores are dispensed with swiftly, school lessons get started early so as to finish most of them before families arrive, and Emily is flitting around the library shelving books and pulling books mothers have requested to be set aside for them.

We can check the computer to see who will be coming because their books are due, but we know others pop in more frequently. Still, we can never be sure exactly what or whom the day will bring. This week promised to be a light one, so Emily decided to pull out her supplies and stay busy cleaning and labeling and covering books being added to our collection. Usually, the day starts with a trickle and builds to a hubbub by late afternoon. Today was just the opposite.

Promptly at 10:00 a.m., the door opened and in came three teenagers with a visitor, their grandmother. This family has been in the library since the first day we opened in 2006 and the kids know the place. The grandmother was coming to visit for the first time. She has been here from out of state for several weeks since the oldest son in the family had a near-fatal car accident and miraculously survived, but is still needing round-the-clock care at home. The 12 and 14-year-old boys immediately headed for their favorite sections to dig for new treasure, one for books on the Middle Ages: Knights in ArmorEveryday Life of an Irish PilgrimThe Silver Branch; the other for a plentiful supply of World War II books: World War II GIEuropean Land Battles: 1939-43Story of D DayStory of the Battle of the BulgeStory of the Battle for Iwo JimaEuropean Land Battles: 1944-45; and their older sister, who has been holding the family together while Mom, Dad, and oldest brother were living at the hospital for three weeks, is looking for something fun to read, as well as some books on snakes for the nine-year-old brother at home, and picture books for the little ones: The Water HoleA Snake's BodyWestern Diamondback RattlesnakeA Snake-Lover's Diary (A library FAVORITE), and Akin to Anne.

Emily scanned their books for check out and I packed them in their plastic tote. They went home to enjoy some quieter days.

Just as they were trooping out, a mother with her seven-year-old daughter entered. They are itching for spring, what can they read about living things, growing things, outdoors? How about Salamander RoomMiss RumphiusPlay With Leaves and FlowersI Was Born in a Tree and Raised by BeesSeven Ways to Collect Plants, and Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady.

Meanwhile, where was little daughter? She had wandered to a shelf where she discovered books on foreign language and was inspired to learn French, Spanish and Italian this coming month. Her mother talked her into limiting it to just two languages: Fun With ItalianThere's a Bull On My Balcony, and Spaghetti for Breakfast. Then, seeing the books her mother had chosen, she went through the science section selecting some more on her own, some doubtless inspired by her father's recent trip to Africa: Giraffe Lives in AfricaBiography of a GiraffePlastics - the Man-made MiracleMother WhaleGreat WhalesWhat is a VolcanoDisaster: VolcanoesWhy the Earth QuakesGold and Other precious MetalsSwampsTropical Rain forestsHere Come the LionsIs There Life in Outer SpaceStory of a Hippopotamus, and Foxes and Wolves.

Next she wanted some easy-to-read biographies: George Washington's Breakfast and Following Columbus. Meanwhile her mother had moved on to choose some craft books for her daughter: Lotions, Soaps, and Scents and Sewing School; added some poetry (Child's Book of Poems) and something challenging for her own continuing education: It All Started with MarxFreedom in Plenty: Ours to Save, and Basic Communism.

Our next library member has just returned after a year hiatus living in another state. She is elated because her last son at home, who has struggled with reading, is finally voluntarily reading books, especially enjoying the Discovery biographies. Are there more of these about other famous Americans? Black HawkAndrew Carnegie made into her pile-to-check-out. And we offer another exciting one to encourage him to move on to another level: The Story of Geronimo. She pulls out her list of books they need for history study. They have just come to World War I: World War I TommyStory of the Lafayette EscadrilleCasey Over There, and The Story of Edith Cavell. We assure her that the biography of a nurse will be one of his favorites as she is captured by Germans and shot as a spy. However, we don't have a certain title on her list, which this mother was particularly hoping to find as her son is crazy about dogs and she thought it would interest him in his history to have. Never to be outdone, Emily substitutes Dogs of Destiny which contains an inspiring true tale of a canine World War I hero. Mom is thrilled.

Meanwhile, another family has come whose books are not due, but who, nevertheless, is in need of more. This is especially rewarding for us as this new family joined last summer with a problem. Her ten-year-old daughter would not read anything but Nancy Drew mysteries and her seven-year-old nothing but Dr. Seuss. All year we have been introducing them to new series'. Recently this mother confided that her girls refuse to go to the public library anymore and beg her relentlessly to come to our library every week. Currently, her oldest is hooked on the Rose Wilder series and is amazed today to learn that there is a series about Caroline and takes home Across the Rolling River while her younger sister who loves the fun sound of Seuss has realized that it's the rhyme she loves and takes The Duchess Bakes a Cake and The Baron's Booty. Now reading on her own, she thinks she would like some horse books today and Emily pulls out some to try: Patty on HorsebackA Pony Called Lightning, and Billy and Blaze. Since she thinks that one book is not enough till next week, we introduce the older sister to try a new series of adventure stories based on the author's true experiences as a missionary in Africa: Jungle Doctor OperatesJungle Doctor Attacks Witchcraft, and Jungle Doctor On Safari. And if she likes them, who knows where those will lead?

Though this is a fairly typical slice of life in the library, Emily doesn't usually have time to process books. This little flurry of activity today is followed by a long lull, in which Emily manages to get 121 new books cleaned, labeled, covered, and ready for the library shelves. She puts them in the sections where they belong because she knows the very child who will be delighted to discover certain new additions that are ready for their next visit.

Living Books Library is more than a place to find books - more than old and out-of-print great literature for children. It's a place where the librarians know the families, share their heartaches and triumphs, have a relationship with them, and where, as the library grows, they grow with the families and their growing love of literature.

For the joy of reading,

Liz

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