I've always had a love affair with libraries. From the time we first started going to the school library (1st grade, probably), being in a place with so many BOOKS just fascinated me. I loved when I was able to move from picking out books from the children's section to the YA section. Books without pictures! Who needs pictures when the pictures come into my mind? And then, every once in awhile, I'd be allowed to pick out books from the HS section of the library. I'd proven that I could handle the reading of them.
For awhile, I even volunteered at our town library. It started as a way to get one of my patches in Girl Scouts. I stayed because I loved it.
The Downsville Library was one large room on the top floor of what I think was a converted home. It wasn't that large, especially compared to the libraries I've been to since. But it was beautiful to me. You needed to walk up a somewhat narrow set of stairs to get there. The landing was at the top of the stairs on your right. The door to the left was storage but the door to the right... the door to the right was heaven.
During the limited hours that the library was open, that door was always open. Your first step in took you from the cold concrete to an orange carpet. It was threadbare in places, but I never paid too much attention to that. My attention was always on the books. There were shelves on every wall, filled with all kind of books - big books, little books, fiction, non-fiction, children's books, YA books, classics and new books. As I said, heaven.
There was a large desk on your left as soon as you came in. That was where I spent a lot of my time during my volunteer time. It was where fines were paid (though I always had a hard time asking for money) and books were checked out. The card catalog was nearby and I'd browse through that for favorite authors. Or I'd sit at the desk and read a book when there was nothing left to do.
The wall on the right was where the non-fiction books were kept. I had the exact location of where various numbers of the dewey decimal system started. But the non-fiction books didn't take up that whole wall. The last set of shelves had fiction books there as well (near the end of the alphabet, if I'm remembering correctly).
The next wall was interrupted by two tall windows. They helped brighten the room, making it even warmer and more inviting. Every other area that was not window were covered with more books. I would need to use a step-stool to reach the top shelf. Though it was rare that I'd need to get books that high.
There was one other window in the library, on the far wall. It was the cut off place for fiction and YA. To the right was where the fiction started. To the right was where the YA books started. Non fiction was closest to the window, with fiction to it's left. The next wall was smaller because the library went further back in that portion than the rest of the library. So there was a jog of wall where it came back to meet the wall that held the desk. That wall was also covered with YA fiction. I picked many favorites from that wall.
There was one long set of free standing shelves. It continued on from that small wall, cutting off the desk from that smaller section of the library. The side closest to the YA books were the children's books. I remember picking books out for my sister from that shelf. The other side were the genre books - mysteries, Sci-Fi, Westerns. And that was another area I explored continually.
There were several tables and chairs scattered through the floor. But it never felt crowded. I usually used the tables for gluing pockets into the back of new books for the library cards. I was fascinated with the rubber cement and used to enjoy peeling it off and rolling it between my fingers.
Sometimes, I was allowed to type up new library cards or cards for the card catalog. They needed to be typed in very precisely. I would keep another card nearby so I could remember what needed to be where.
I loved the library cards. This was back before digital was even considered. Some of my younger readers may not remember them, but I'm sure some of my older readers do. Rather than scanning a bar code or entering information into a computer, there was a card with the name of the book and the author at the top. If it was a non-fiction book, it would have the dewey decimal number there as well. When someone wanted to take a book out, they'd write their name on the first available line. We would stamp it (and I loved the stamp) with the date that the book was due. We would keep that card and put another card with the due date into the pocket. We filed the library cards in a box with the dates they were due. Then we could take a look to see what books were over due.
There was only one librarian. Althea. I loved working with her because she showed me so much about the library. She taught me more about the books and how to shelve books, how to ready books to shelve them, how to get books from Interlibrary Loan (and the books we had to look through for that were HUGE). Working with her was one of my highlights of growing up in Downsville.
Libraries now are bigger and fancier. It's easier to find the books that you want and when your books are due. Libraries have websites that offer so many services to their patrons. The buildings are bigger and brighter. And I love it. I love having so many more books to look through, story times that I can bring my boys to, and a lot of librarians to help me when I need it. But there will always be a part of me that misses that small library on the top floor of a converted house in Downsville.