When I was younger, I spent a lot of time at the Lisbon Falls Community Library. They always had free bookmarks at the check-out desk; one summer, I got a bookmark that said “There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away.” I didn’t know it at the time, but those words are the first line from an Emily Dickinson poem. I loved that bookmark because that was exactly how I felt about books even though I had to look up the meaning of the word “frigate.”
The library had a certain smell, like old books and pencil shavings. The best libraries still smell that way. It’s a smell that evoked magical feelings. It meant a little piece of something unknown was going to be revealed in words. Oh, how wonderful it was to be young and naïve about the world and all its information.
When I travel to new areas, I like to include libraries on my list of places to go. Sometimes, small towns have wonderful old-fashioned libraries with lots of books, periodicals, and built-in window seats. If they’re good, they smell like old books and pencil shavings. The best thing about libraries, though, is that they’re free; no cover charge, and no 2 drink minimum.
The other day, I stopped into the Stockbridge, Massachusetts library.
Because libraries are peaceful and quiet, I have often overheard interesting conversations. Yesterday in Stockbridge, a young father and his daughter were reading books in the children’s section of the library. When they left, they chatted briefly with the librarian at the check-out desk. I overheard the man say “Who invented libraries? They are surely a wonderful thing.”
Hear ye, hear ye, libraries surely are a wonderful thing.