Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Better than Christmas
We could hardly sleep last night. This morning we all jumped out of bed and hurried through breakfast. The kids looked like they had ants in their pants as we walked to the bus stop. We giggled and grinned and couldn't wait for the doors to open. We waited six very long months and it finally happened: Our town's library re-opened today.
Some of you may have read my post a few months ago about the controversy surrounding the closure. After ballot measures, failed levies, passed levies, community meetings, and letters to the editor, we have our libraries once again. They're just not public anymore. Our county decided to out source our library system to a company in Maryland to keep costs down. We've apparently got 3 years before we have to figure something else out. This is not good news. I can no longer refer to our library as public. We now visit the private library. It just doesn't feel right.
As we waited excitedly on the front steps of the building this morning, newspaper and radio reporters swirled around interviewing us. The kids were too excited to sit still, but I agreed to answer a few questions. I did say that it felt a lot like Christmas morning. The anticipation of waiting for months to have access to all those books, magazines, tapes, CDs, movies, and newspapers once again was amazing. I can't even count the number of times over the past six months that I had to stop myself mid-sentence as I suggested to the kids that we head to the library to find out more about something cool we were curious about. It was heartbreaking.
I explained to the reporters that it was bizarre to think that this is time in our lives our kids would remember as The time we had no libraries. What does that say about our priorities? What does that say about our culture? Our government? I was asked if we found ourselves using the internet more often over the past 6 months to fill our library needs. This question really irked me. The argument that our society no longer needs libraries because of the internet will never, ever fly with me. A warm, dry, safe gathering place, that does not charge admission for use, full of public information could never be replaced by the internet. Sure, we can Google milkweed pods when we want to know more, but we can actually go to the library and get so much more.
At 10 o'clock sharp, the doors were unlocked. As the kids walked through the doors my eyes filled up with tears. It was like coming home again. They walked right past the juice and cookies as they made a bee line for the children's section. Within 10 minutes, our towering stack of books was teetering on the edge of the table, while magazines and books on tape were spilling out of my bag and onto the floor. The shelves were overflowing. I hadn't really considered the fact that this would be the one time that all library materials would be on the shelves and not in circulation. The movie section looked like a video store! It was hard to not grab everything in sight. As the kids settled in, I headed upstairs with my wish list. All of my choices were there! It really was like Christmas! When we finally checked out later, a reporter asked us how many items we'd checked out. We counted over 60 items!!!
As we made our way home and interacted with neighbors and friends, there were knowing smiles and a buzz in the air. The library? Have you been? Did you go? Were you there? Is it true? By late afternoon, we just had to go back. I reminded the kids that the library would indeed be open tomorrow, and many days after that. But we had to go back. So we did. Just a few more books, okay Mom? You bet. Living life without school means we have loads of time to hang out at the library. It's been a long six months. I'm not happy about the solution our County Commissioners came up with, but I am very grateful to have our libraries open once again.