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Booking Through Library

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Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. (There’s no way my parents could otherwise have kept up with my book habit when I was 10.) So … What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

It is too long ago. I cannot fix on the year, or the spot. But it was when I started to demand buying too many books than my mother would allow that she told me I can check them out at the library. I must be in second grade, or third the latest. That the main library was right across the street from my school on Pui Ching Road in Hong Kong made it very convenient. My affair with the library started way before I became a devoted reader. I appreciated the refuge that a library provides as a study hall. I remembered learning the Dewey (decimal) catalog system that most public libraries adopt. Instead of being the frequent patron of the Children Library, I was pacing through the canyon of tall shelves at the Reference Library, where I conducted research for a school science project (oh yes, this is elementary school). By the time I was in Secondary 1 (7th grade), library became my hang-out spot after school, where I studied and read. It wasn’t until I was a college-bound student that I began to read literature seriously–reading one book after another, owing to a very enthusiastic literature teacher whose reading habit is contagious. I made the Stacks (the main library on campus) my second home by the time I started college at Berkeley. It was a concrete, gigantic vault of a complex that goes four levels underground with miles of stacks full of titles in humanities, literature, and foreign languages. I, of course, would most likely be found at a study cubicle near the P section on the B3 level! Undergraduate was the time when I read the most literature even though I was a chemistry major. Dostoevsky. Tolstoy. Camus. James. Joyce. Dickens. Flaubert. Saramago. Wharton. Whitman. Hardy. Hemingway. The list goes on and on.

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20 Responses

  1. I have just recently started going back to the library when I realized just how much I was spending while attempting to read 100 books in a year. It is much more affordable to check out books than getting on Amazon. :)

    A seat by the windows is always the best. Unfortunately, my neighborhood library now has none!

  2. Reading IS contagious, isn’t it?

  3. I got my first library card probably around 3rd grade too. I loved getting it – still remember that day (actually, I think I still have my card!) :)

  4. Let’s see… I think I was still in preschool when I got mine, but I lived across the street from the library, so this was reasonable. I never spent much time in the library, but would walk in, check out as many books as I could carry, and show up again a few days later to return them all and get more. I remember that the library had the entire Animorphs series and it always drove me crazy when other people had the ones I wanted to read checked out so I had to read them out of order.

  5. I love visiting old libraries! The smell of books gives me a high!

    Library memories

  6. What great memories, Matt! I wasn’t sure I could remember anything either–at least nothing beyond generalities. It seems like so long ago. Libraries are such treasure troves.

  7. I preferred going to my grade school library rather than recess, when I could get away with it. It’s odd and sad to think that teachers were convinced that that was not advisable as social development was deemed more important, and the playground was the place for that. I tried to fake the sniffles, but they often bundled me outside telling me I needed to mix with my peers and get some exercise. I got my first city library card around the time i was 10, which was the youngest age allowed for a card, though I think my parents could check out books for me before that. I loved to visit our small city library on weekends, and I did sometimes after school; it was only a few blocks away. When I was in high school, on weekends I used to ride the bus 14 miles to visit the University of Oregon library. It was the largest and most magical library I had ever seen. It was probably the biggest one in the state. That’s where I discovered musical scores and books on composition and orchestration. Also, they had a wonderful record library, where I first had access to the complete range of musical classics, as there was little on the radio and I couldn’t afford my own recordings. Also, I could find the scores up in the stacks and then follow them while listening to the music.

  8. My first library experience (not including the school library) was during Summer school in the first grade, walking as a class to the local branch of the Public Library. The youngish librarian handed each of us a small, thick paper card with a metallic rectangle near the bottom right corner. Impressed upon the rectangle was a number. She told us that magic number allowed each of us to borrow books, to take them home for a short time. I chose about 7 books and watched as she placed the card into a stamping machine, removed a card from a pocket attached to the inside cover of each book and slip it into the machine as well. The cool, inky smell lingered on the walk back to school, as did the purple ink on my fingers from rubbing the numbers.

  9. mari:
    Those numbers add up, don’t they? I have almost completely stopped buying hardbacks unless it’s something that *really* intrigues me. I do manage to get a few trade paperbacks a month. All the rest come from library.

  10. Sally:
    I read but I seriously read, became addicted, when I was an 11th grader. My teacher was one Mr. Sanchez whose love and appreciation for literature–the style of prose, the writing, the choice of words–just completely bowled me over. In addition to what were required of us to read, I asked for more.

  11. Iliana:
    I still mine from HK back in 4th grade. That was a special moment…I felt so privileged! :) When I took it home to show my brother and sister, they were just as excited.

  12. lucidlunatic:
    Preschool? Wow you were early! I was very obsessed with the new privilege of a library card when I first got it. I picked up every single book and got my attention until I couldn’t hold them in my arms. Then I realized I could only read maybe half the pile and so I instead made more frequent visit and checked out less books. :)

  13. gautami tripathy:
    Like you, when I was a kid, the books at the school libraries (in Hong Kong) were mostly study books. It wasn’t until I ventured out to the public library, which was just across the street from my school, that I began to dig reading material. That was quite a journey. :)

  14. literary feline:
    I am grateful that the library has played a role in my education and growth. It was where I learned about armchair travel, history of the world, and much more. :)

  15. Greg S:
    What precious memories! I would prefer to negotiate the aisles of book shelves than to mingle with my peers. I overheard a conversation between parents and kids at the cafe the other day, in Palo Alto, Stanford-land. They were asking the kids what they’d like to do and the kids didn’t volunteer. So the parents started going down the checklist (one that seems so overused that they can remember off the top of their head)–water park, grab a movie, go-cart, blahblahblah…what amazes me is that during the whole conversation, which persisted for must be an hour, the parents never mentioned reading or library. They were more concerned about getting their kids ahead of the others at the next judo practice or ballad lessons. No wonder I have a room full of college freshman who can’t even write an essay!

    You were lucky to be able to get in the university library as a high school student. I didn’t recall such privilege given to me when I was in high school. Isn’t that backward or what?

  16. Greg:
    Beautifully written as usual. This comment alone can be a blog post Greg! How cute you must look rubbing your finger on the numbers on the library card. :) By the way, I miss those hand-press date stamps. Those were really cool.

  17. Matt, thanks for sharing your library memories. Now I’m thinking of my own – I spent an inordinate amount of time at the library all through my childhood and into my twenties. Now I work at one!

    And Mari, no chairs at your library? How unfortunate!

  18. Lesley:
    I also reflect upon the wonderful acquaintances with librarians. They have been very helpful and nice to me. :)

  19. My mother took my sister and me to the downtown library when I was four. She checked out books about Native Americans. She picked out children’s books for me: Miss Hickory, a series about a boy and a monster, etc. I remember choosing one myself–a book about lobsters, which fascinated me.

    The last time I went to the library was before we opened the bookstore, I checked out Dracula, Frankenstein, and Logan’s Run.

  20. Jef:
    It always amazes me what kind of books that kids pick out for themselves (and why they pick the ones they do).

    Now do you just pull out a random book from shelf and read?

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