Libraries and Summer Reading

This week I started my new job as a circulation clerk at the local library here in Lafayette, Indiana. The work environment is great, my coworkers are cool, and the position pays well. But the best part of the job is how it’s changed the way I see libraries–and in just one week.

Libraries have always been big in my life. Growing up, my grandmother was the librarian at our high school. Every summer, my parents would pay not a small amount of money to get library cards at the Muncie Public Library (we were out of the tax zone for the city). And later, as an English major at Ball State, I spent the majority of my time in Bracken, our university library. So, yeah, just about every stage of my life thus far has included a vital library element of some kind.

The only problem, though, was that I always saw them as a service for me to use. They had books I loved to read, books I needed for research, quiet spaces to write in, rooms to reserve for group projects, computers, printers, copiers, etc. (believe me, I could go on).

This week changed that.

Well, really it was one little girl checking out a book I once had as a kid.

This book.

Little Bear’s Visit by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by the awesome Maurice Sendak.

Growing up, this was one of my favorite books. The love between Little Bear and his grandparents mirrored the relationships between my grandparents and myself. Whenever it was read to me by my mother, I felt I could easlily slip into his life. Since then, there have been a lot characters I’ve felt this way about, but truly Little Bear was the first.

When I saw a little girl checking out one of my favorite books, I realized that a library is more than a service in the same way a book is more than an object. There is a substance that can’t be seen or identified regarding the books we read and the passion we have for them.

Since the little girl, I’ve handled more books in four days than I think I ever actually have before (which, as an English major, is more than a little baffling), and every time I help a patron check out–whether it’s two books or a heavy stack–I’m always struck now with more meaning than before.

Okay, okay, maybe I’m getting a little hyper-poetic and cheesy, but damn. Books.

Piles of paper glued or stitched together filled with symbols that somehow draw emotion from us and make us feel.

I don’t think it’s wrong here to say that’s pretty fucking amazing.

And now I get to work in a building that stores and distributes them to anyone who wants to sign up.
Got any stories or love for libraries? Share them down below!

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About jekcarter

Farmer/Writer/Editor/Advocate for the Imaginary
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5 Responses to Libraries and Summer Reading

  1. Dunno how Ball State operated, but my undergrad’s library was 24-7. So that environment had the added-on meaning of a place representative of the devotion some of the students had to their studies- you’d see sleeping bags and electric kettles in corners, signs that a student, prolly taking a piss, was literally camped out to work on something. This would happen all school year, too, so it had more going on than just Finals Fervor or something. And another layer to it is those “campers” would rather do the work there than in their dorm or home. As if the library was not only a holder of the information they needed, but also a (re)source of energy and motivation that couldn’t be removed from the location- like the water containing the locket in the seventh HP book.

    Also, I plan to buy my future kids the Little Bear collection. The cartoon adaptation is/was wonderful, too. ;p

    • jekcarter says:

      The Ball State library was open until three in the morning, but there was a similar relationship between many of the students and the library. It wasn’t uncommon at all to see people napping in chairs or hidden in nooks between the shelves. Bracken was a wonderful building for finding hidden spots.

  2. Sydney says:

    Hey! I love your post and I am totally jealous that you are working in a library. I always applied at home but they never needed anyone. I realized recently how much books mean to me and to my life. I am studying in the UK right now and I haven’t really been homesick because I am used to being away for school and because the internet makes it easy to talk to people. However, the other day I teared up because I miss my books. Summer is my reading time and I miss all of my favorite books and characters. I was shocked because I have always loved reading my books but I never realized just how important they are to me. Thought I would spread some more love for the spirit of the written word. 🙂

  3. I remember when I was 5 or 6 and got jealous of my older sister who had to write papers for school on the books they checked out from the library. I wanted to write papers about books too! So my mom let me check out a cheetah book and do a report on it. No one understood why I so masochistically desired to do more “work” than I had to… now I’m an English major, and not much has changed. 🙂

  4. lindaktaylor says:

    Nice post! Like Sydney, I’m totally jealous of your job. There’s nothing better than being around books. When my three kids were little (I had three in 33 months, so they are VERY close in age), we spent a lot of time in the children’s library in our town. We always checked out stacks of books. For many years, I read aloud to them. Then they began checking out books for themselves to read. We took the books back and got some more. Like you, I love that some of my favorite books were still around for my children to read. Next, it will be my grandkids . . .

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