Saturday, January 21, 2006

Literacy, Libraries, and Other Ramblings

When I was a kid, my mother couldn't afford much in the way of activities. Saturday afternoon movies cost a quarter or fifty cents. The swimming pool cost a dollar per visit. But a library card was free. Reading was free. I spent many afternoons in summer reading at the library, which was located in the upper story of an old building on main street, up a steep flight of stairs. I devoured books as a child and youth, traveling the world of words and living adventures with heroic characters: Freckles; Girl of the Limberlost; Little Women; Robinson Crusoe. And I'd check out as many books as the librarian would allow, then sit at home with my nose in a book for hours. I wasn't exactly a couch potato. I played outside with my siblings and neighbor kids, but reading was my favorite pastime. I eventually graduated to Anna Karenina; The Brothers Karamazov; Wuthering Heights; Lady in the Lake; Laura, and other adult classics.

As a clumsy, homely kid who wore thick glasses from age four, words were my friends. Words did not poke fun or turn on me. Words could transform the reader into anything he or she dreamed of being -- beautiful or handsome, brave, adventuresome -- and introduce worlds we might never see otherwise.

After a lifetime of reading, I find it strange that the classics read as a child and young adult are still the only classics I can remember. Where are the new classics? I can't think of any that stayed in my mind. Have I lost touch? Can anyone refresh my memory?

Libraries were wondrous places when I was a child and still are today. Even in remote rural areas, tiny towns have libraries that offer internet access and a myriad of beneficial services. I've been thinking lately how rewarding it would be to work in a library, to share somehow in promoting literacy and my love of reading. I've been a Registered Nurse, medical transcriptionist, writer, and reviewer. In my next job, I want to be a library worker bee.


Josh said...

I haven't really been much of a reader the last few years but I've recently picked it up again. I'd forgot how much I actually enjoyed it! It's my little escape from reality. When I'm reading a book I don't have to worry about my "real world" problems because I become one with the story and characters of the book I'm reading. I get really involved and I like living in those "alternate realities".
The library here in Topeka is fairly new. They built it a few years ago to replace the "old, outdated" one they had. The new one is like paradise to me. I could spend days in there if that was possible :o)

AstonWest said...

I think modern publishing has no interest in creating new classics, as it's easier to make money with their current system.

I've heard good things about the Topeka library, and may need to make my way there at some point...

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I enjoy good writing by writers and poets who are not famous. My mother said I was born a hundred years too late. The older I get, the more I realize how right she was.

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