We lined up in small groups, invariably holding hands with a partner. The heels of our leather shoes tapped along the polished surface of the hallway leading to the double doors. I remember the excitement. There it was. Parked along the curb. The Bookmobile!
Proceeding in what a casual observer would consider an orderly fashion, I inwardly squirmed like an excited puppy. Anticipation peaked at the two-step entrance as the stuffy smell of new carpet wafted through the open doorway. The blue floor-covering looked pristine− even though that was not a word in my vocabulary at the age of seven. I recall hesitating, wondering if I should remove my shoes.
Entering the mobile library and circling the rows of books was as thrilling to me as a field trip. I don’t recollect having field trips as a child, but if I had, I could not have been more eager. We did not speak−not even in whispers. In a well-behaved manner, we waited patiently while the librarian initialled the card at the front of our chosen books, each of us mouthing the word thank you as we turned to leave.
Beaming, I stepped down to the pavement, bony knees protruding from my box pleated navy jumper. I walked smartly back to the classroom; a book tucked tightly against my skinny frame. A treasure I could enjoy for a whole two weeks before the Bookmobile rolled around to our school again.
That memory and my love of books and libraries have not diminished throughout the years. Yet as time passes, I notice a change in the library etiquette. It is not the reverent silent oasis of my childhood.
I introduced my granddaughter to the library when she was a toddler. The small local branch had a spacious colourful children’s section that included an abundance of wooden puzzles and a play table with an assortment of stimulating toys. I would read a storybook with her perched on my lap and then allow time for puzzles and play. It was our habit to choose another storybook to read after we returned home.
This became a much-anticipated activity. Now as Sophie approaches her fifth birthday, we still include a trip to the library with each visit. Her little sister Sadie accompanies us whenever possible.
Sophie and I have explored several libraries within the county. I instilled in my granddaughter a respect for libraries. We must refrain from making noise, and aside from quiet reading, keep conversation to a minimum. Much to my chagrin, at the age of three, Sophie shushed two talking librarians. This is a libaary, she reminded them.
However, visiting the larger centres is very different. The noise level has increased considerably. I am disappointed to see children racing and screaming, falling down and rolling on the floor. Mothers slouched in chairs balancing a Tim Horton’s and an iphone. The play areas resemble day care centres. The first time we encountered this behaviour, Sophie clung to my side. Inexplicably, I felt I had let her down. That I had misinformed her. That I had taught her something that was no longer relevant.
Sophie looked at me and said, No running in a library. Right, Nana? My reply was lost in the din.