Dear Library: Thank You
Updated: Feb 16
I apologize that it’s taken me so long to write this note. I was raised with the importance of thank you notes drilled into my head. Getting a timely thank you note out was imperative not only when receiving a gift, but also for meaningful experiences or opportunities. With three small children, my timeliness has lapsed, but I still feel guilt hanging over my head until they are neatly addressed, stamped, and placed in the mailbox. I realized recently that you’ve given me quite a bit in my lifetime and a thank you note is long overdue.
So, thank you.
Thank you for being a provider of books both for me and for my children. I’m guessing I’ve checked out thousands of books at this point; novels, biographies, picture books, beginning chapter books, books to help with a paper or a project, or about a topic my children are interested in. I’ve learned quite a bit about Antarctica in the last month, thanks to my kindergartner’s interest and the many books on the subject we’ve found on your shelves. Thank you for the story times, the summer reading programs, the after school activities, for providing a place to study or work on a group project.
As a child, library visits were always a highlight of my week. I would disappear into the shelves with a tote bag and wander through the books. I would search for the perfect next installment of my current favorite series--the Babysitters Club, the Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High. I’d fill my bag with favorites I still remember fondly to this day--the Giver, Tuck Everlasting, the Phantom Tollbooth, Bridge to Terabithia, the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I’d browse favorite authors--Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeleine L’Engle, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, and scan the backs of books looking for new favorites. I’d fill my tote bag to the brim, and I’d feel a little thrill of excitement as I presented my very own library card to check out my books. Once my books were safely home, I’d stay up late devouring them, reading by flashlight long after I was supposed to be asleep. The next week, I’d feel a little pang of loss as I dropped the books I loved back into the book drop, quickly followed by the anticipation of taking a new bag of books home with me.
In elementary school, I counted down the days until our weekly class visit to the school library, after which I attempted to sneakily read my newest treasure under my desk instead of listening to that afternoon’s math or science lesson. I couldn’t wait until I got home to dive headfirst into the newest book. I loved those library visits so much that when I was in second grade and a little on the clumsy side, I fell out of my chair while the teacher had stepped into the hallway for a moment. She didn’t see my fall, and though I was in a great amount of pain, I scrambled back into my chair, determined to hide my fall and subsequent pain, because it was our library day. I gritted my teeth and made it through the lessons standing between me and the library. Only then, once my newest book was successfully checked out and mine for the week, I let the tears flow and told my teacher that my shoulder was hurting rather badly. After a trip to the doctor, it was discovered that I had broken my collarbone. But the library book was mine. My parents, exasperated by the fact that I had waited so long to tell the teacher, demanded to know why, and I told them--I had to get to the library.
As I got older, the library became not just a place for new books, but also a place for group projects and study sessions. A place to print papers and run into friends. In college, it was a social scene as much as anything, a place to study and socialize until late in the night.
Once I entered adulthood, I no longer found myself at the library as often. I’d stop in every now and again, but I mostly stopped by Barnes & Noble to buy a book instead of borrowing. I fell out of the habit of weekly library visits, and wouldn’t return to the habit until I had children of my own. When my oldest was born, we attended storytime sporadically, as our schedule would allow. As he got a little older, we started to find our own library rhythm. Now as a kindergartner, with two little brothers, he looks forward to the days he knows I will pick him up from school and we will head to the library.
A cotton tote bag hangs from his bed, our library bag, and as we finish books from the towering stack next to his bed, they go back into the bag to be returned. Each night before bed, we read. Chapter books and non-fiction about his latest interest for my kindergartner, picture books for my preschooler, and board books for my baby. One afternoon a week, we head straight from the carpool line to the library. They offer an incredible younger elementary program, that they happily allow siblings to attend, and it is a highlight of our week. After we’ve learned about penguins or ninjas or Andy Warhol, we pick out books, filling our bag until the handles threaten to rip off. Before we check out, we swing by the holds section to grab whatever books have magically appeared for me, ready and waiting, easy to grab with three children in tow.
Each day when I leave for afternoon carpool, I am sure to bring my latest library book, and I savor the twenty minutes that two children are napping in the backseat while I wait in carpool for the third and read my latest library treasure.
On our library visits, we look for Sly Fox and play I Spy, my children excitedly showing off their stamps or stickers once they’ve discovered Sly Fox or filled up their I Spy sheet. We participate in the summer reading program and as many of the after school programs as we can fit into our schedule. We play with Legos, and sometimes we run into friends. My kindergartner is fascinated by the hold system, and starting to ask for more specific books, and so now books arrive for him as well--books about penguins and Antarctica, a book from his favorite series: Magic Treehouse, Flat Stanley or helping me happily relive my childhood with the Boxcar Children. Around Christmas, we head to the library to build gingerbread houses and watch the Polar Express, and the library is as much a fixture in my children’s childhood as it was in mine.
Thank you, library. Thank you librarians, who give my children TWO stamps on their hands when they complete the I Spy card, who wait patiently as they place their books up on the counter for checkout, who create and run these amazing afterschool programs, who carefully select books for storytime, make sure that all the books are in the right location, and pass on the magic of the library.
Library, you have made a difference--in my life, in their lives, in the lives of so many.