The Teen Advisory Group at the Guelph Public Library launched a campaign recently to encourage residents to discover new books and authors, to use their library more often, and to become more active in their community. They asked all kinds of people to submit a response to their campaign. Here’s what I sent:
I still remember getting my first library card – and that was over fifty years ago! It was light green and I’ll say it was 3 ½ inches wide by 4 ½ inches high, but I may be wrong about that detail. I drove down my old street not long ago and was surprised by how much shorter it was than memory led me to believe.
I think I appreciated even at the age of five that my library card was like a ticket – a magic ticket – to all the places in all the books on all the library shelves (in the children’s department anyway). Over the years it took me to New York (the All of a Kind Family series), to England (the Swallows and Amazons series), and to China (The Five Chinese Brothers and The Story of Ping). My library card took me inside homes like mine, where there was little money for books or travel, where it snowed in winter, a station wagon sat in the driveway, and the people ate cheese sandwiches for lunch. It also took me into the lives of people whose lives were different from mine, people who rode in rickshaws or on elephants, who ate things I couldn’t pronounce, or whose animals talked to them.
I was in grade four when my teacher took us on a class trip to the public library. I was shocked to discover then that not everyone had a library card. How did they live without one?!
It was years before books written by me would sit on library shelves, and be taken home with the eager anticipation with which I’d once taken home Blueberries for Sal, Little House on the Prairie, and Seventeenth Summer. I have no doubt that it was reading all the books I read as a child, a teenager, and into adulthood, that helped turned me into a writer.
I have never, since 1957, been without a library card. If I move, it’s one of the first details I take care of in my new community. I will never live in a house big enough to hold all the books I want to read (even if I could afford to buy them, which I can’t). And although my career as a writer has given me many opportunities to travel, how else can you travel inside another person, except in a book?
So, do I still love my library? You bet!