So every kid in west Hamilton was at the library today, I swear. Most of them under the age of 8, half on the computers playing games, some reporting their books read to the summer reading program staff member; some at the train table playing with the trains, several running around spinning the paperback racks and some actually reading at tables. A room off the childrens' area had participants for a toddler circle time - there was much screaming and many toddlers trying to get away - not exactly toddling at all, more like running at full tilt, with a frazzled caregiver on their tail. As for me, well I just stood in the middle of it all, fascinated. No, really. The library is brightly lit, the staff are more than patient, and the area for kids is unbelievably fun and kid-friendly. Can I get a collective "duh" from y'all? Shouldn't the kids area BE kid-friendly? Indeed it should - and I know it is, I've been to this library dozens of times with the kids, and it rocks. But it never ceases to amaze me how different public libraries are now. Of course people, we're going back 30 years or more and I really don't want to start on the "when I was a youngun.." and bore you to tears, but there it is. Let's start with the "brightly lit" part. I remember the library being dark - like really dark - like "your eyes need to spend several minutes adjusting to the dark after you locked your bike on the rack outside and opened the great big door and stepped in out of the summer sunshine" dark. Which was ok - in a way I liked it - it added to the mysteriousness of the place. Next, let's revisit the "spinning and screaming" - my library was quiet. Ok not tomblike, but there was definitely not the buzz that you get today. Finally I'd like to address the "train table" - only one of the dozens of toys available at our library today. I vaguely remember a toy lending library as part of the whole library thing, but there wasn't really anything to play with while you were actually in the library. I never borrowed toys. I had lots of toys, I was there for books - always lots and lots of books.
Today both boys signed up for the summer reading program, and Max even got his very own library card. (side note - remember the Happy Days episode where Fonzie gets a library card? And he tells Ritchie "anyone can get one - and they're free!" and registration for library cards went up like 500% in the US after that episode? That's the kind of power I'd like to have....) So anyway, I told the boys about my favourite book when I was young - it was called "Rosa Too Little" by Sue Felt (see how I'm a natural in the library world?) and it was about a little girl who really wanted a library card of her own, but she was too little - she had to be able to print her name before she could get a card, so she always had to have her older sister sign out the books for her - until the very end when, of course, she prints her name and gets her library card. Classic.
So on the way home as we were talking about our books and I was telling the guys how great they were (they were - always good boys at the 'brary) I was also telling them how much fun I always had at the library when I was a kid, how one of my favourite things to do on a summer day was to ride my bike to the library (kids love it when you reminisce and tell them about your childhood - sure they do, don't they??) and Charles said "wow, it's no wonder you ended up working in libraries, you really love them..." And - as usual - he's right.