The library is where I come to relax. When family gets too much and I need some quiet time. When friends are busy at weekends, either chasing a ball round some sports field or even more bizarre watching other people chase a ball. On cold winter evenings when I can join an Adult Education Class on Local History or Archaeology or even Art Appreciation, but never on Making a Quilted Cushion or Car Maintenance. This library has been a hub round which my life revolves for as long as I can remember.
I could read before I went to school. While others were playing in the sand tray in reception class and looking at picture books I was reading my way through the limited number of books in the school library. I had finished them all by the end of the first term. I told the teacher that I had and she did not believe me. She pulled a book at random from the shelves and asked me what the story was about, as I told her I could see her jaw drop. I pulled my public library ticket from my pocket and asked if it would be alright for me to bring some books in from there to read.
By the age of seven I had read all the books I found interesting in the Junior section of the public library, I was getting a little discerning by then. I found that some authors wrote to a formula, read one Famous Five book and you had read them all. Only the locations and the villains names changed, so why bother?. There were books that were aimed at boys and others at girls but to me it did not matter as long as they fired my imagination and challenged my comprehension. That raised a few eyebrows at home and from the librarians too. My problem was that I was running out of things to read and the rules were that I could not get access to the Adult section until I was eleven. My older brothers would sometimes lend me one of their library books but it was not the same as choosing my own after a pleasurable hour of browsing the shelves. I pestered my parents, my teachers and the librarians and eventually they signed a letter I had written to the local council. At the age of seven and a quarter I was presented with my own Adult Section ticket, subject to the one proviso that my choices must be approved by the librarian on the desk, I entered book paradise.
Reassuringly the fiction books were all arranged alphabetically as in the Junior section, that would change much later with books arranged, often seemingly arbitrarily, by genre as well. The big difference was with the non-fiction. What were all these numbers on the books? Welcome to the world of the Dewey Decimal Classification. It took me a short while, but I eventually grasped it and even started sorting my own books in the same way. I must admit I think that the folks that develop new entries for Dewey system have a wicked sense of humour. Before they assigned the 000 Class to Computing what few books that mentioned it used to be sandwiched between those on Logical Deduction and those on Errors and Fallacies.
It has been so many years since I first came to this library that even the youngest librarians who knew me then have retired and others have passed on, like many of the books that I have loved here. I pause at the shelf where they are selling off old books, I always look here first. My own shelves at home are groaning with books I have rescued from pulping so I have to be selective.
A leaf blown in from outside lands on one of the books for sale. An old favourite I have not seen for years, it must have been on the reserve stacks. That one I must have. Thank you leaf! I could have missed that one. As a reward you have found a new job, as a bookmark.