This has given me the opportunity to revisit them, at least their descriptions on Amazon, and begin rebuilding my library of youthful favorites electronically.
The warm memories I have of my junior high school library’s fiction shelves… The 10′ length of tall shelves was crammed with fiction — even some paperbacks, which was rather avant garde for a junior high school library in 1965.
There was a surprising range of titles, too. Some of the authors became lifelong favorites: Pilgrims’ Inn and The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge; False Colours (the first of dozens I read) by Georgette Heyer; The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter; Farnham’s Freehold by Robert Heinlein (which led me later to Stranger in the Strange Land from the local book store), and the sturdy Miss Marple mysteries of Agatha Christie.
The importance of early books on our world view can’t be underestimated. Who I am is in part a reflection of the early readings. The rebel who seeks beauty in nature and spiritually from daily life; the woman who believes in trying to live up to her own standards; the curious lover of miscellaneous knowledge. The glimpse into difference and sometimes alien ways of life, and the workings of mind and heart transcending those differences are still as fascinating to me at 60 as they were at 12. Libraries — both public and public school — are critical avenues for exploration and growth.
The two most important things I learned in all of my public schooling were how to do simple research and write a coherent sentence. Google may have replaced the card catalog as the tool of choice for finding things, but nothing will ever replace the ability to share thoughts and feelings through the written word. Kindle, paper or audio — books teach us and entertain us, deepen and enlighten us.
The reading we do in our youth leaves deep imprints that can last a lifetime. In the frightening and rapidly changing world of politics and public services (who ever thought the mail would be jeopardy?) let’s not allow libraries to fall to the budget axe.
We can’t afford a generation without the intellectual and ethical mooring provided by good books. Some savings just cost us too much, and leave us the poorer. I can’t imagine who I would be, or what my life would have been, without the influence of my teenage reading. My parents gave me my love of books, but libraries opened the door to the amazing and fascinating variety of fiction, poetry, history, and science.
Long Live the Libraries. May they always prosper.