Libraries and Little Connections
by C.V. Gauthier
I grew up in a rural community, in a tiny bungalow, the middle kid in a large family. The small bookshelf in my house had a standard set of encyclopedias and a set of abridged children’s classics, both purchased from some lucky travelling salesman. Books acquired by my older siblings added some contemporary fun—Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, the Hardy Boys, and Boy Scout handbooks. An assortment of discarded school textbooks rounded out the family collection.
Before I learned to read, I’d pick one of the children’s classics and make up a story based on the cover illustrations. After I learned to read, I worked my way through the best of what we had on hand. Two adult volumes of medical conditions and family rearing were kept out of reach on the top shelf. My parents were dismayed when I mysteriously began to diagnose my childhood illnesses.
Elementary schools didn’t have libraries in my district, so a librarian was dispatched to the outposts once a month in a repurposed old milk van. A humble selection of books, respectfully organized according to the Dewey Decimal System, took the place of glass milk bottles on the wire shelves inside.
I remember my first visit to the library van. Our teacher had instructed us to pick one book and return to class right away. I deliberated until I was the last child left in the van, holding four delicious books like a hungry child with a platter of mouth-watering desserts. When the librarian asked if she could help, I told her I couldn’t choose. She smiled and said that meant I needed to borrow all of them.
The connection I made that day stayed with me long after the library van pulled out of the schoolyard for the last time. Librarians—those keepers of the words, those protectors of the safe havens of quiet belonging, those guides into wonder and imagination. Every child should know one. Every child should have access to good books.