Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Night at the Library

Suzzallo Library in Seattle, Washington
I love libraries; I always have. I think I was born with my library card clutched tight in my teeny weeny fist. My village librarian was Miss Lossing - known in the distant days of my childhood as a "spinster" complete with glasses and her hair drawn back tightly in a bun. She knew me very well, too well in my opinion. I was happy that she knew the number of my libary card off by heart because if I forgot it at home it was never a problem as in those pre-computer days she wrote the number in a very tidy script on the pasted-in form in the back of every book I borrowed.  She must have written the number "222" a hundred thousand times or more as I borrowed books there (four books a week) until I moved away in my early 20's.

Aside: after Miss Lossing retired MY MOTHER became the librarian! She would often give me books from the FREE discard box that she knew I loved as a child. I currently own battered and torn yet beloved books from my childhood with the hand written number 222 still visible on the inside of the back cover.

A precocious child I often veered towards the "junior adult" section which she  kept annoyingly close to her desk. Oftentimes as I "innocently" wandered over into that forbidden area she would take me by the shoulders and gently steer me back into the children's section.  I'm not sure how old I was when she finally let me borrow more mature books from the junior adult section - probably nineteen:)!

One of my most vivid memories of my early library-going days was the trip from library to home. The library was open after supper from 7 to 9pm. To get to the library I would take a shortcut across the school ground  - a total length of about a block and a half. Heading over at 6:55pm there were always lots of people out and about and cars on the streets. Emerging close to 2 hours later it would be very dark and ominously quiet...too quiet. I was faced with the decision of sticking to the sidewalk and going the long way home - west one block, north one block or taking the shortcut across the school ground which was complicated by the fact that our century old red brick two storey elementary school had an actual belfrey inhabited by actual huge, black, blood-sucking vampire BATS!!! at least that is how my child's mind remembers them - I may or may not have imagined all of the atmospheric conditions: full moon every night with glowering clouds racing across its face, wind howling through the leafless trees and the occasional glasses-wearing, be-bunned witch racing around on her broomstick....

Gulping noisily I bravely started out across the school ground my two stick arms clutching my four books to my non-existent chest. I never knew whether to keep my eyes on my destination - HOME - or to check about me for imminent dangers - serial killers, mummies, skeletons or worst of all - BATS!! Inevitably I would glance up the hill to my left - my eyes drawn up to the school's belfrey.  Not being able to see very well in the dark any leaf or speck blowing around would catch my eye - was that a bat?  How do I know?? It could be a bat!! What if it is a bat?? Oh jeez, I better make a run for it and away I raced, books thumping against my chest, eye on our porch light growing larger and shining more brightly the closer I got to HOME, my wonderful, warm and safe HOME!! where there are people who love me and will protect me....pant, pant, panting I reached our porch steps....bang bang bang up the steps, in the front door....slam!! again.

Mom: "how was the library?"
Me: "ok"

Written in the relative safety of Landon Library, London, ON. Although pitch dark outside I have my trusty defender with me...between the two of us we should be able to get to the car before an escaped fugitive stabs us in the back!! Stay tuned...


  1. Kindred Spirits! I love the library and my number was 1972. I can remember reading anything I could get my hands on at that age, but "Rebecca of Sunnybrooke Farm" was one that stands out. My DD loves it as much as I do! I don't remember any bats hovering around however!

  2. No bats at or near the Library when I was a kid, like you I used to spend hours there, lost in books in which I was a Ballerina one of The Famous Five or my all time favourite Heidi.

    Having said that I am sitting in my office listening to the fruit bats fighting over my Pawpaws, spooky ehhh.????

  3. Hi Sis: From one library lover to another, you bring back memories of home.Thank heavens for porch lights! I used to put books away at the library for an hour or two after working at Pitcher's on Sat. nite..think I got 50 cents an hr. Then watched Sat. nite movie with Nana. Miss Lossing would often ask me if I thought the book I had clutched in my hands was too adult for me and I'd say NO..A person could break out in a sweat hoping to get a "romantic" book past her! Love hearing about your childhood memories..Older sis..

  4. lol, what an imagination. I'm still exactly the same way! I think vivid imaginations go hand-in-hand with voracious reading habits, esp. at a young age.
    My readings of the newspapers, and my father's adult books starting at a tender age surely contributed to my imagination that a psycho lurks around every corner!
    Great post!

  5. Maureen: I loved Heidi too! I got the idea of putting cheese on bread and toasting in a toaster oven from that book. Still one of my all-time favourite treats:)

  6. Sam - I still have my childhood copy of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm in addition to all the Anne of Green Gables books. They just never go out of style do they - I guess that is the test of truly great literature.

  7. Hi Lannie: My very first job was doing the Story Hour over at the library - I loved it. Going over early to pick out books - I'd read them all over and over so got to share my favourites with the little kids. And getting those teeny tiny paycheques made out to me from the LIBRARY - wow - I thought I had made it BIG!

  8. Kim - I read a lot of weird stuff as a kid - my mom (who was a published author herself) had shelves and shelves filled with books - Edgar Cayce who wrote prophecies etc, Dale Carnegie, lots of self help type books etc. I was reading Edgar Allan Poe stories as a child when the other kids were reading Dick and Jane, and liked to read Shakespeare's plays out loud for fun. Don't I sound like a geek? I was, but as everyone in my household was an avid reader it didn't seem weird at the time.

  9. Jane,
    We both love the library and go there all the time. Hubby can read multiply books at one time, so we usually take out quite a few. You will love the Abby Cat System Jane when you are here this Summer. So easy to request the latest and greatest books.
    Would love to know what your Mom has written if you care to share.
    Two of my favorite children's books are Dr. Goat & The Country Bunny and the little golden shoes.

  10. my library wasnt' within walking distance and the ones we went through closed 'early' I loved it when my mom would take us there to get books! now the ones near me stay open late - some til 9 pm and on Saturdays. One branch is even open on Sunday from noon -5 pm or so. Love the library!

    I think I'd have walked the long way instead of by bats LOL!


  11. in the Village restaurant in Norwich you'll find a picture taken of the old public school. the photographer was standing SE of the school, so the yard you ran across is visible. and poking out from behind the corner of the school - our old frame house.

    next time i drop into the restaurant for a coffee I'll take a picture of the picture.


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