Today Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I are debuting a feature we are calling Hometown Views. Every other week we will focus on a different aspects, locations, or landmarks of our differing towns (or city in Erin’s case).
This week we are sharing photos and thoughts about our local libraries. Erin lives in a more urban area, and I live in a smaller, more rural area. We both have a few different libraries we can choose from that we have visited, but we both have one library that means more to us than others.
The library building in the town we lived in prior to moving to our current home, was a beautiful facility and like most of the seven libraries in the county I grew up in, was built in the late 1800s, specifically to be a library.
It has three stories filled with books and a fourth story which houses the local museum. The museum features artifacts from Native Americans who originally settled the area, various historical objects from the area, uniforms and weapons from a variety of wars, and old photographs. It’s a small space but packed full of fascinating items.
I didn’t take a lot of books out there over the years, but we did attend various events there and I was at the library a lot covering events when I worked at the newspaper. I also let my children jump in mud puddles outside of that library one rainy day while patrons gawked at me like I had three heads. Good times.
Another library in a beautiful building sits next to the newspaper building (now abandoned, sadly) where I used to work. The library features two or three levels of bookshelves, accessible by metal stairs and ladders. There used to be a children’s section in the back. A few years ago, the library purchased an old carriage house behind the library building, and converted it into children’s wing, opening up the rest of the library for computers and more rows of adult or reference books.
While there is a good selection of libraries in our little rural area, for me, the library that means the most to me is in the town I now live in.
This library is actually in the county next to the county where I grew up, however, I lived only about five miles outside of this town up until I was about 25. I then married and moved 45 minutes north, where I lived for 18 years.
I remember coming home from the library with plastic library bags full of books. Mom would have one or two bags and I had one. We’d walk into the house and Dad would say, “More books? How will you even have time to read all of those?”
Well, Dad, not having a ton of friends helps with that. My friends were inside the books. Okay, not totally. I did have friends, but my friends liked to read too so there were times we didn’t hang out and during those times we read.
The library was and is small. There are three or four aisles with books on either side and then a small children’s room.
All on one floor. Yes, that’s it, but when I was a kid, it was enough for me. I actually don’t remember ever picking books out of the children’s room. I read books that were probably too old for me, in some ways, but not inappropriate in any way, so I chose from the main shelves.
I was in love with The Cat Who books, which I, of course, still talk about on here (I finished reading one just this past weekend and have a blog post in the works about my love for the series). I also signed out quite a few Beverly Cleary books. Christian Fiction was another genre that caught my attention there.
I loved walking the aisles, running my fingertips over the spines of the books, picking them up and opening them, breathing in deep the smell of ink and paper, knowing that soon I’d be transported away from my sometimes boring life and into a world fresh and new to me.
I was so excited to move to this town and be able to go to the library again. But then I remembered my recent phobia of signing out library books and worrying about damaging them, which makes me take them back before I’ve even finished them. The phobia started in our previous hometown, because if I forgot to return a book that library would call, then text, then call, then text and so on until I returned it. I felt like a criminal. It was just easier to order books on Kindle or buy them at library sales.
The last straw was when I ran into a member of the library staff and mentioned to her I was bringing a replacement for a book I’d lost to the library. She told me not to worry but then let me know that if people don’t return books, the library has been known to send a report to the local district magistrate’s office. Gulp. That return book was in their hands the very next day after that and I never signed out another book from them. (But, no, I do not really believe she was threatening me. She was just sharing the libary’s new policies.)
You Know What didn’t help with my excitement about the little library here last year since I couldn’t peruse the shelves for almost a year. Then I became annoyed at our local library a few weeks ago because they continued to advertise their summer reading program, as if new people could join, but it was full. I had missed the deadline by a few days, but I called the library and asked if I could slide my daughter in. They never returned my call, so I called again. Still no call. When I finally was able to catch up to someone, they told me the program was full and my daughter could not attend.
It was fine that they had capped the program because they don’t have a lot of space but what was annoying was that they would advertise the program in the local newspaper as if children could attend, even though they couldn’t. So, I was a bit snitty with the lovely ladies who volunteer there and even though I apologized profusely for being jerky, I still feel super shy about going back in again. That’s why some of the photos I will share here are from my cellphone a couple years ago and from their website. That’s right, I’m a big scaredy cat to go there right now, even though they forgave me and said it was totally understandable that I had been annoyed. When I do go in, I will take them a big box of baked goods from the local bakery. A bakery called — I love this — The Mad Bakers.
I do love the library and I do love what they do for the community so I feel super, super guilty about being a jerk. I make sure to donate them or promote them whenever I can.
For a tiny library, they really do have a lot of variety of books. They have a great deal of Christian Fiction, which is popular in our area, but they also have a great deal of mysteries, popular books, and this month they added 65 new titles of tons of genres to their shelves. They hold a variety of programs throughout the year for all ages, but especially children and families.
We loved this magic show we attended there at the beginning of June.
In many ways, they are the center of the tiny community here (of 600 people in the entire town).
Another library I want to mention is one I visited once or twice as a child and teenager. That library, located in the little town of New Albany, Pa. was completely destroyed in 2018 when it was knocked of it’s foundation by rising flood waters. Quite a few people in our state have heard about the library because it was washed off it’s foundation and came to rest in the middle of a major highway. Or at least part of it came to rest there.
It was hit by flooding the week before it was knocked off it’s foundation, but I don’t think anyone thought that whole building, with a concrete foundation, would go down.
There was an apartment upstairs and the people who lived there were rescued by a member of the fire department who lived next door and whose home also was damaged. His home was again damaged last week in flooding.
The rest of the library, including books and documents, were scattered across the street, down the street, and downstream.
The library is still gone. The funding the governor (who came to inspect the site) and the state promised would come to replace it was never provided. The funding the county mentioned they might be able to obtain to rebuild it, also never came. Land has been donated to build a new library building, but so far there are no funds to complete the project. The state will also not allow the borough to go into the creek behind the space to clean it out and keep flooding from happening again so the residents of the borough again suffered damage last week when they, again, had flash flooding.
There is a small little library-like set up in town, in front of the church, far away from where it normally floods. Books are placed in a structure that resembles an old British phone booth and patrons can take a book and replace it with another book.
Growing up I only visited the library a few times, but it was cozy and housed a great deal of local history. Its loss was a huge hit to a small town that has already taken many hits over the years.
Thanks for joining me for a tour of the libraries in my area. Now I hope you will hop over to Erin’s blog and check out her post about the libraries she attends and enjoys.