I am a child of the library

I really am. When I was a kid, we had few books at home, and the library was two blocks away. Before kindergarten, so when I was less than five or six, I had worked out a route by which I would take my wagon to the library, crossing our urban streets away from the dangerous corners, to the library, pick up a pile of books and return the last pile. Then I would read them and bring them back.

After a summer of doing this they ran out of books in the children’s section, which was not very large (this was the small branch library on Delaware by the Post Office, for those of you who know mid 20th Century Albany Geography). So I started using the adult section.

Science books, travelers accounts, and eventually law books. the law books were important because my friend Kirk and I planned to get jobs, when we grew up, as superheros, and we felt that knowledge of the law would be important.

One day they changed librarians and the new librarian would no longer believe my story about taking books out for my brother, and I was no longer allowed to borrow books that were not in the children’s section. That upset me and ever since then I’ve had a hard time trusting or liking librarians. This could be why I have a substantial collection of my own books. But I still used the library all the time. Most of the schools I went to until 7th grade did not have libraries in them.

Then I went to The Milne School, and it had a very impressive library for a high school (in those days) which included first class murals that were, and probably still are, on the National Register.

I am a child of the library because that is where I have learned everything I know else-wise from experience. Yes, it is true and ironic: I’m a teacher who never learned very much in a classroom.

I was distressed to discover several years ago that almost all K-12 libraries in the US are now called “media centers.” This could be one of the reasons that it is so easy for irresponsible legislators, governors, and mayors to allow libraries to fester, shrink, and ultimately close. People grow up not really relating to the word “library.”

Well, that was all introduction to this video that I think you’ll enjoy. I have to admit, when Piers Cawley asked the audience about their recent library use, I assumed he was talking about perl libraries (or other programming libraries). I wonder how many in the audience thought the same thing.

Have a look, and sing along:

Hat Tip, Shawn Powers

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14 thoughts on “I am a child of the library

  1. “… ever since then I’ve had a hard time trusting or liking librarians.”

    Come on, Greg. This is just hyperbole, right? One deviant librarian and you write us all off? We librarians LOVE to help people and to encourage them to discover information. Go to a library conference sometime and surround yourself with librarians sometime. You’ll change your mind.

  2. I had the same kind of childhood experience with librarians. Today as a library director it is my goal that no child will be frightened of going to the library the way I was.

  3. Gerry, it is a bit of hyberbole. You librarians as so sensitive! But it is also not made up, and it wasn’t one deviant librarian. It was the whole library’s policy and they stuck together.

    The high school librarian was pretty tough too.

    Then there was the librarian I mention here: http://goo.gl/2dmoZ

    On the other hand, some of my best friends have been librarians, like John Weeks. And, when I’ve served on IT committees with librarians, the librarians were the only members of the committee (aside from me) who were politically aware and activist. So I also have a lot of respect for librarians .

    Plus, I probably want to be one but I’m not, so there’s that.

    But yeah, the Deleware Avenue Branch thought it was so cool but a five year old read every single child’s book they had and was quite prepared and able to do more and they stomped on me. That is not hyperbole. And my disdain decades later is still pretty fresh. (And I also know that librarians are not the same today as they were in the middle of the prior century, in terms of training or professional orientation.)

  4. Your story resonates with me. When my parents moved from a rural to urban area, I was in fifth grade and reading at college level, but the city library’s policy limited me to the children’s section. Fortunately, I had a teacher who checked books out of the library’s adult section for me, every week. Some books I requested, others she selected for me. Thanks to her, I read all of Shakespeare’s plays. That was a great year for reading!

  5. When you’re a nerd, you’re a nerd. I was sitting in the movie theater with my three daughters for a Harry Potter or LOTR movie, the only times I have seen the inside of the theater in 30 years. The pre-movie announcements were innocuous until the dancing ticket said “Sound out these pictures to name a famous star!”

    I started thinking Vega….Sirius??? I was getting nowhere, and then the answer was flashed:
    Rock Hudson
    I started laughing out loud, so my daughters (who don’t want to be embarrassed by their old man) demand to know what’s so funny!!!

    I just told them “Your father is a nerd.”

  6. One day they changed librarians…

    Librarians have to be changed regularly — it’s in the health code. I’m waiting for my change now.

  7. The code/books confusion is entirely my fault. I’d got an introduction planned that would have made it plain which I meant but then it flew out of my head as I got on stage. Something along the lines of “Like the hat? I learned to make it by reading a book, which I got from the libraryâ?¦”

    Ah well.

    I’m glad you like it.

  8. What appropriate timing! Here in Toronto we’ve recently had a bit of a media kerfuffle, as the Mayor’s brother (a city councilor) has decided that it would be appropriate to cut library funding in his district and close several branches down. He also picked a fight with a famous Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, when she spoke up via Twitter to defend our public libraries. I’ve been planning for weeks to blog about the subject — and now I’ve got a video to attach to it.

    As a side-note, I too am a child of the library: until I was 5 or 6 years old, my mom actually worked at the library, and I spent most of my days in the children’s section being looked after by various librarians while she was busy in the offices, or sitting quietly in a corner of the county headquarters with a small stack of books while she went to board meetings. By the time I reached kindergarten I was terribly socially maladjusted, but could read better than my eighth grade reading partner.

  9. I’m a librarian, but I had a similar experience as a child; but my Mom stepped up and checked out the book I wanted for me — which I saw as a good lesson in parenting!! Thanks for the story & video!!!

  10. I grew up in Albany and became a libraria because of Miss Baker at Delaware Branch. Oh my.. you must have pissed someone off mightily. I never had a problem taking out aldult books at any age.. I very rapidly moved from the low level children’s section on the right,.. to the young adult section on on the tall shelves on the right, and then moved over to Adult section on left.. And unless you went to school 18 .. which I sort of doubt..there were libraries in ALL public schools that went up to 8th grade. PLUS .. if you were in AT., the classroom received a new box of about 15o box every 6 weeks.

    1. I went to PS 18! But only for kindergarten, then St James, then for AT at 23, then Milne, then community school, etc.

      I don’t think I pissed anyone off. I think I was simply seen as too young. I was a precocious reader. They probably did not want a six year old messing with their books. Plus, I was a boy, maybe there was some discrimination there. This all may depend on what year you vs. I were there, too. Miss Baker does sound awful familiar, though!

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