By Shari Randall
If you know me, you know I love libraries. Where did that library love start?
When I was growing up, my hometown had two fabulous libraries, so different from one another, each with its own charms.
The grander of the two, the Curtis Memorial Library, was set on a hill across from the Town Hall, and looked down on the city in serene majesty. Our town fathers and mothers knew what they were doing when they situated this building.
The 1903 Greek Revival building was constructed in the classical style to resemble a temple. It had a dome, and a skylight, and everywhere white marble with green veins. The second level had a mesh metal floor that rang slightly with each footstep. There were several plaques inside, including one that fascinated me, of what I thought was an angel holding a sign written in a strange language. Or maybe she was a fairy? (I looked it up. The plaque was called Amor-Caritas, one of Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ depictions of his mistress holding a sign that meant “Love – Charity,” intended to encompass both earthly and spiritual love. I remember this place with awe. The library was grand, imposing, and full of wonders, but it was cold and a bit forbidding to six-year-old me.
So my hometown’s smaller, friendlier branch library was my favorite. A sunny storefront much closer to home, it was packed with children’s books. My older sister and I were allowed to walk there by ourselves and park our wagon by the front door. Sweet independence! I remember a very accommodating librarian, by which I mean one who let me check out anything I wanted: Nancy Drews, Dr. Seuss, books on parakeet care (for Herbie, my first pet), biographies of famous dancers (for what I believed to be my burgeoning ballet career), and books on how to speak Russian (for my other career as Emma Peel. I wasn’t sure what the main character of The Avengers did exactly, but whatever it was, I wanted to be it).
Neither of these buildings is still a library – the grand Curtis Memorial is now a cultural center and the storefront is empty. Both were replaced by an expansive modern library which serves thousands of library lovers each year, including, I’m sure, little girls who love their parakeets and may want to be a spy when they grow up.
Do you remember your first library? Share a memory or photo in the comments.
Former children's librarian Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery series and is Library Liaison for Sisters in Crime.