I grew up around the corner from the public library. Here's a photo of it. OMG, was it really that tiny? It was a special outing with my family to walk to the library, then cross the street to the deli for a soda. I was determined to read EVERY BOOK IN THE LIBRARY. I really just wanted to be there, to escape thinking about real life and have some time to myself strolling through the stacks, reading all the titles and fantasizing what the stories inside the spines might be. The children's librarians knew me by name and saved books for me; it made me feel special.
When I was a teenager, my friends and I met at the library to study. It was the perfect "I'm not really out with boys, Mom, honest" location to meet boys. And do their homework for them and get them to buy you a soda afterwards. I was the one who actually knew where everything was, although looking at the size of that library, really, how hard was it? But my friends let me go get them things, bless their lazy hearts.
Once my library tried out a program where they loaned out pictures you could hang on your walls. I couldn't figure out why my mother didn't borrow new pictures every two weeks. I would have, if I could've taken them home on my ten speed.
My friend Jackie and I used to ride our bikes to the next town, which had a bigger shopping area, and every time I suggested we stop at their library, she used to kick me and call me a nerd. But she'd go with me as long as I wasn't wearing my blue and gold Bayport jacket. We'd be surrounded by kids in purple Sayville jackets, and we were sure if we were wearing blue and gold, we'd get chased out. Naturally Jackie didn't own a school jacket as that was for rah-rahs, and although she didn't mind hanging out with a nerd like me, she had to draw the line at people who took school spirit seriously.
Today, I see teenagers at the library all the time. Sometimes I know their parents, and I wave and smile and they look at me funny and try to figure out how they know me. They're still in there, riding bikes or skateboards to get there, studying in giggling, flirting groups, browsing the titles in the stacks. I'm sure there are teens who meant to escape from life like I did in the library, but who also found people. Public libraries aren't just libraries. They are community places. To all of you public librarians who welcome teenagers, today I want to say thank you!
-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages