Going to the library is one of my most vivid childhood memories. I lived in a very small town in eastern North Dakota. During the summer months, our town library was open on Wednesday evenings only. My best friends, Nancy and Julie, and I would hop on our bikes after dinner, and pedal the six blocks to the local high school where the library was located. In my little white bicycle basket, I carried books that I needed to return to the library.
I can still remember the unique and wonderful smell of wood polish, ink, and paper that the library held. To this day, if I happen to walk into an old building with wood-paneled walls and big bookcases, that same special smell will immediately transport me back to the feelings of wonder and magic that came over me when I entered the Hillsboro library.
I couldn’t wait to see what adventures and far-away places the next book would hold for me. From that library, I lived the pioneer life with Laura Ingalls Wilder, solved mysteries with Nancy Drew, and sobbed with grief when Old Dan and Little Anne died in Where the Red Fern Grows. I laughed at the antics of Pippy Longstocking, dreamed of living the secret, miniature life of The Littles, and talked to every spider I saw after reading Charlotte’s Web. Every book held new viewpoints and ways of looking at the world that I had never realized before. I learned what compassion and courage meant from Summer of My German Soldier, and understood cruelty and enduring love in Sounder. I couldn’t wait to take my new treasures home, and dive into those new worlds, ideas and adventures. Walking up and down the aisles of the library, looking to spot a title or book cover that caught my interest was an exciting prospect. What would I discover next?
Since those days, I have visited many libraries, some small, and some enormous and filled with every subject imaginable. But no library can compare to that tiny institution in my childhood town, where I first discovered the magic and beauty of reading.
Open a book and stick your nose inside. Breath in the smell of paper and ink – that smell opens doors to places, times, and people that will change you forever!