It’s the smell that has stayed with me. After all these years the smell hasn’t changed. The smell of the paper and the plastic that surrounds the hardcover books. As soon as the door opens I’m hit with first the silence and then that old familiar smell.
My mother took me to the library often as a child. I remember walking the rows, my hand sliding along the spines of the books on the shelves, inhaling their scent and feeling at peace. I remember how happy and relaxed my mother was when she had a book in her hands. I remember the joy as I walked into that children’s section and got lost in a sea of books. I remember the excitement as I checked out my books, anxious to get home and discover the magic that lay hidden between the covers.
I remember how grown up I felt when I got my very first library card.
The library has always been a bit of a hideout for me. It is quiet and peaceful and I can wander the aisles alone, without having to speak or be spoken to. It’s like a candy store and I am an excited child not quite sure which treat I’m going to bring home and enjoy.
The library was one of the very first public places that I took my son.
I wanted nothing more than to pass on the love of all things books. We would pay our local library a visit at least twice a week, attending story hour, baby playgroups and always walking out with a few books to add into our bedtime reading routine.
Our local library offered story time in French and turned a little room into a play space for my toddler with tunnels for him to crawl through, blocks for him to build with and a corner lined with plastic garbage bags and filled with easels, paint brushes and brightly coloured paint. He was able to run around and play safely while I sat off to the side nursing his baby sister. Selecting which books we would bring home with us quickly became the highly anticipated part of our outing.
Once again, the library became my refuge. As a new mother, I was offered a safe, free space to bring my children. A place where I could meet other mothers while I was introducing my children to the wonderful world of storytelling.
My son quickly understood the joys of the library and was thrilled when at four years-old, I allowed him to get his very own library card.
He looked so little and so grown up all at the same time as his chubby little fingers grasped the pen and wrote out his name on the back of the card. He tucked it safely into his tiny wallet and remembered to bring it with him every time we went. Every trip he thoughtfully selected each book he wanted to check to out and brought his loot up to the counter, presenting his card with pride.
This library card was his first taste of independence. He chose his books and he checked them out, all under his name. Yes, at four years old I would have to remind him of the impending return dates, but he would gather all his library items on his own and happily place each one in the return drop box. He knows that if something happens to one of those books it will be his responsibility and he treats them accordingly.
Almost four years later, both my kids still love our trips to the library. We all walk in together and immediately go our separate ways. My youngest heads off to the children’s section where she settles in to a cozy castle with her books. My oldest goes to the junior section and scans the comics and joke books. I continue to wander the rows upon rows of books wondering what treasure I will bring home this time around. Will I go for a mystery or a romance? A biography or a book of essays? I love the fact that I have no idea what I will walk out with.
The library opens up a whole new world for my children. New books, the opportunity to do crafts and see magic shows. They check out games for their Wii and pick movies for family movie night. They watch as newcomers to Canada gather to practice English and tutors help students learn math.
The library is a community hub. It is a necessary part of our lives and we are so fortunate to have access to it. The library has helped foster a love of reading in my kids. It has introduced them to stories they may never have experienced otherwise. Getting their very own library card was a rite of passage and is teaching them responsibility and commitment.
Maybe one day, as my mother passed on to me, my kids will pass on the love of all things book at their local library. Maybe one day my grandkids will find peace in the silence of books just as I do.