Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why I Love Librarians #2

I’ve never met a librarian I didn’t like.

I liked Miss Dunn in my middle school days at Engvall Jr. High. I liked the wonderful Donna at the San Francisco Mission Branch library who put the perfect book (Gary Paulsen’s, HATCHET) into my son’s hands as we headed out on a camping adventure, and many others...

But decades ago there was a librarian who wouldn't allow me to check out books from the adult section with my “Junior” library card (stamped with a great big J). I was probably in 5th or 6th grade.

My mom had dropped me at the library to choose my books while she went shopping. On a previous library visit Mom had shown me Fiction, Non-fiction, Biographies, and Humorous Short Stories in the adult stacks. Now she was double-parked outside the library at the appointed pick up time with her bags of frozen groceries. So she wasn’t too happy when I came out empty handed.

“The librarian said I couldn't check out my books, because my card has a J,” I told her. So my mom fished in her wallet and handed me her library card (stamped with an A for Adult). She gave me her hurry up look and I went back in.

The librarian shook her head, no.
Back to the car.

My mom wasn't one to cause a ruckus, but I guess she figured the ice cream was nearly melted anyway. She parked the car. She put money in the meter. I followed behind as she walked to the check out desk. Overly polite short-clipped words in library-quiet-voices followed. The librarian suggested that perhaps my mother wasn't aware of the adult nature of some of the books. Mom whispered she was, and insisted that if I found a book I wanted to read, I could check out any book in the entire library.


I soon had an A stamped on the other side of my J library card.

I doubt I had a clue about censorship at the time, or what possible evils the librarian hoped to keep from me. I can’t even remember which books I checked out. I'm sure if I happened upon any content meant for more mature readers, it went right over my head.

But yes, I liked that librarian, too.
She didn’t agree.
She certainly did not approve.
But she stamped an A on my card.

I liked that librarian because she allowed me to see a strong, quiet and determined side of my mom standing up for what she believed in.

And even in their disagreement, my mom and the librarian both believed in books.

The memory is still a powerful one for me. And the melted ice cream tasted just fine.

Forecast: Belief in books--with intermittent whispers of disagreement

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