I have an addiction. A library addiction. A passionate love for the Dewey Decimal system. A fervor for words and sentences and chapters titles and page numbers.
This past week, I obtained a new, shiny addition to my wallet: a New York Public Library Card. I smiled somewhat uncontrollably as the librarian passed me the red and blue plastic, giving me the ultimate key to my new city. “Thank you!” I exclaimed, a little too overzealously…I own this city.
I can’t remember a time I didn’t love libraries. I used to finish my elementary school work as quickly as possibly so I could rush and ask the librarian for another book selection; I would dash home from camp in the summers so I could run over to the public library for the summer reading program; I spent many a school night in secret corners of my favorite library, sneaking pretzels freshly dipped in chocolate frosting into my mouth when the librarians weren’t looking.
The thing about libraries, more than the smell of old books (delicious) or the endless opportunities to meet new and interesting people (excellent), but there’s a sense of community you can’t really find any other place on earth. You wait in line to check out and suddenly strike up a conversation with an eight year old checking out his first chapter book or an eighty year old furthering her knowledge of South American fruits. You take home a Charles Dickens novel and find a reminder to buy spinach for dinner on page 97. You check out a Frank Sinatra CD and receive recommendations for numerous other records, none of which you will ever remember to listen to.
There’s something special about reading the words of a book knowing they’ve been enjoyed before, understanding that someone else also shared in this story, someone else is now roaming this earth with the same wisdom you’re acquiring from the book, the same joy the novel gave you, the same sorrows you felt at the end of the memoir. I feel comfort in knowing that the books I read are shared stories, stories from which a community continues to learn and gain inspiration.
I love the library for its infinite possibilities, for its ability to educate me on any topic at any time. I love that I could plop myself down on its cushy floors and page through books of music, searching for the perfect sixteen bars to sing at an upcoming audition. I love that I could educate myself on personal issues, making the reference and non-fiction sections my closest friends, advisors, and confidants. I love that I can just go read/write/study with so many others who are there to accomplish exactly the same task: learn.
On my first day of college, I explored my new school library with enormous enthusiasm as I observed the endless new study spots and pages to be read. I’ve found a new home in the cushioned chairs and wooden desks of my favorite study alcoves and cannot believe how incredibly gorgeous the building is.
As my favorite Arthur episode once said, “Having fun isn’t hard, when you’ve got a library card!” And now with the pairing of my student ID and my new glossy library card, the whole world is open to me, and I’m completely unstoppable!