A few days ago, while I was browsing through Communication Arts at our local library, I had this moment of gratitude. It suddenly occurred to me how lucky I was to be able to hold this fantastic publication in my hands and enjoy its contents. Furthermore, I could take it home for FREE and continue to enjoy reading it, simply because I had a library card.
Libraries have a long and rich history, and I often give thanks to all of those people who have played a part in creating, maintaining, and sustaining them. My fondness for libraries began when I first set foot in our elementary school library. I was excited by the beautiful, colorful books, magazines, and posters, and the comfortable chairs. It was a magical place filled with oodles of reading options.
During the school year, it was fairly common for us to go to the library, in our class group and on our own. All of our school research took place in the library. You could discover so much. There were the books and periodicals you could take home, and there were those that you could only view in the library. The world opened up before me as I read through the pages. In the summer, my mother, who loved to read, would take my brother and me to our neighborhood library each week. We’d explore the shelves for a while, and always leave with at least 2 or 3 books in our arms, eager to read them.
My visits to the library continued through college and beyond. I always found relevant material to bring home that would help me in whatever projects I was working on at the time. It was a reliable, rich source of information. Learning from my teachers and classmates was not enough for me; I pursued additional sources to supplement my classroom experience. Through the years, I taught myself many things by reading books on painting, design, quilting, and technology. Nearly everything I know about computers and software I’ve learned through print materials, internet sources, and experience.
With the internet, we now have easy access to huge amounts of information. There’s no doubt that the internet has opened up other worlds for us. And we’ve all adapted our learning techniques to the changes brought about by technology. But in that moment at the library a few days ago, I realized how the physicality of holding a magazine makes its contents more vivid and real to me. I absorb what I read better and learn more. I also feel more engaged, more present, more relaxed. I’m not in any hurry to finish, but rather look forward to reading it at my leisure.
Clearly, I’m not the only one who loves going to the library because it’s always filled with people. There’s lots of reading going on, of course. The variety of books and magazines is impressive. Every computer terminal is occupied. Parents bring their children. You can take out films, music, and e-books. Community events, such as art shows and musical performances, take place there too. There’s something for everyone.
This morning, I was reading an article in Communication Arts about a Canadian illustrator who takes a walk each day to clear her head. During her walks, new, creative thoughts emerge, and she returns to her studio fresh with enthusiasm and energy. Interestingly, it was during my walk home from the library, magazine in hand, that I was inspired to write about how important reading and libraries have been in my life.