Growing up, my mom would often take me to the library. I loved the hushed quiet, broken only by the occasional thwump of books being dropped in the return slot just under the front counter. To me it was a magical place with its shelves full of books just waiting to be discovered. First stop was always the children's section which sat off by itself. Picture books were arranged in one corner around a square of carpet where one could relax with their new-found treasure. Non-fiction, which I only selected if I was working on a report for school, was arranged toward the middle of the room in orderly rows. Back in those days you had to wait in line to have the librarian check your books out to you, stamping the due date on the little card tucked in the library pocket glued inside the cover of the book. (Sigh. Suddenly I feel really old.) Going to the library was something I looked forward to as a child. In fact, I still do. And happily, so do my children.
Saturday has become our official library day. My Saturdays are typically spent on mundane tasks such as housecleaning and laundry with a little lesson planning thrown in here and there. Most of it is pretty boring stuff, so by afternoon I am definitely in need of a break. It is fairly easy to persuade my boys to turn off the video games or say goodbye to neighborhood friends. After all, we are going to get some books!
Yesterday, as we approached the door of the library, my younger son was in the middle of telling me how we always go to the same spot when we get there. Crossing the threshold, Jack automatically lowered his voice. It made me smile to see that he too recognized the library to be a magical place where only soft, reverential tones may be used. Together he and I headed straight to the shelves that hold the new children's books. As Jack had pointed out to me when we entered, this is where we always begin, and where I once literally gasped out loud to discover Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming before quickly grabbing it off the shelf. After making our selections here, my boys and I followed our set routine and scattered in our different directions. Oftentimes I am searching for resources to bring back to my classroom, Jack is looking for books on CD, and Jared heads upstairs to the teen section. Yesterday's trip also included a search for poetry books for Jack's upcoming school project. I selected a few, and then went in search of my boys. I didn't have to look very hard since they were right where I thought they'd be, sitting close together on a cushioned bench tucked in the corner, already lost in their books. Again I smiled. All the worry that had been resting heavily on my shoulders the entire day (Did I say day? More like weeks!) was momentarily lifted. Nothing else mattered but this moment with my children, the three of us wrapped up in our shared love of reading. They say we are our own worst critics, and I know in my case that is definitely true. But when I see my children finding as much pleasure in a trip to the library as I do, I feel that this at least I have gotten right.
With quite a bit of prodding, I got my boys out of their seats and headed toward checkout. (With just one last little detour to pick up Captain Underpants and Ninja Meerkats books.) There was no line and no librarian armed with a date stamp, though, just a computer which, through the miracle of science, knows which books we have placed on the pad in front of the monitor and prints out a receipt to remind us when they're all due. Checkout procedures at the library have definitely changed since I was a kid. But as my boys and I walked out the door with our bag overflowing with books and my heart overflowing with happiness, I realized some things, the really important things, haven't changed a bit.