Some libraries I have known: Childhood libraries

[This is in response to the most recent “Mach was” challenge, which concerns libraries (“Bibliothek”).]

When the latest topic was announced, I knew I’d finally have a lot to say. Apart from various houses of worship, the library will be one of the first places I see out when I move into a new town. Below is a brief list of the libraries that have stayed in memory. There were probably more, but I imagine I’ve forgotten a few.

[ETA: I guess I’m going to chunk this up. This is part 1.]

Childhood Libraries


The village public library.

This was the first public library I spent time in — in the village where I went to school (our little town didn’t have one, and still doesn’t, the voters being too parsimonious to approve the expenses of a branch of the county library to open here), about seven miles from our house. It was right on the main intersection of the village. The lower floor was a library and the upper floor was used for town meetings and at some point, I think, a doctor held a periodic clinic there. His tools were still up there, anyway, in a cabinet, when my Girl Scout troop occasionally met there in the late 70s. I have a lot of great memories of this library. There wasn’t much in it, but a lot of young adult series fiction from the 50s and 60s (Cherry Ames or Trixie Belden, anyone?). Also when I was a young teen I occasionally did volunteer hours here. My mother was friends with the librarian back then and my brother and her son played together a lot, too, until they moved away. Apart from that, I’m not sure why we used this library, except possibly that for quite a while it was easier to park there than in town.

Crews from Guelig’s Waste Removal began demolition of the former village library on Saturday, April 23. By Monday morning, the building was completely down and crews worked on removing some remaining debris. John Faucher photo


A little less than a year ago they tore it down, as they built a larger replacement on the outskirts of town and they are trying to restore as much of the historical fabric of Main Street that remains and make the rest of it more attractive. The village librarian is now the daughter of someone I went to school with. The teardown also revealed an interesting mural still on the wall of the neighboring building. I found this amusing as I went to school with the youngest McHugh girl, who played the French horn, but I don’t remember the Tap, which has changed hands at least twice since then. The same family ran the “country club,” but I see they’ve recently sold out to the ex-husband of the organist from my parents’ church and his girlfriend. Blatz is still brewed but it’s a much smaller operation now, having been out by Pabst.

I should not neglect to mention that I also used the school library extensively after I was in first grade. I looked for a picture, but the school has been extensively renovated since then. We were only allowed to check out two books a week — we went there once a week as a class to do it — but the school librarian went to church with us and my mom made a special deal with her that I could go as often as I wanted but only have two books at a time. So if the bus got to school early (we had an hour bus ride to school and I read as much as I could in that time), I would go to the library and exchange books. Things I associate with this library: the books were labeled with colored tape to indicate what level reader they were appropriate for. I read all of Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls Wilder in this library, as well as all of the “Choose your own adventure” titles and a lot of young adult classics, Anne of Green Gables, Betsy & Tacy, the Beverly Cleary and Madeline L’Engle books. Also, in seventh grade, I spent a lot of lunchtimes chatting with the librarian. That was the transition year to junior high school, and it was not a good time.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh library -- the first scholarly library I ever met.

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh library — the first scholarly library I ever met. It was love at first sight!

There was a separate library for the high school (all of the district schools, elementary, junior high, and high school, were in the same building, a so-called “consolidated school”) which I also made use of a lot, but it wasn’t as good as the public library, so if I had to do research or something, for most of high school, I would go to the public library. And, of course, there was no Internet! I remember looking for things in a publication called Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. All the books in the school library were arranged by Dewey Decimal System, so it was easy to find books although there were also card catalogs. My senior year, I took one class that required us to use a scholarly library, and I used two of the ones within driving distance. This was like a revelation to me — the number of books they had, and the specialization of the topics. If I wanted to read about something, I had been accustomed to having to read a lot to get to just a few things I didn’t know, but the books in academic libraries were amazing! I got an A on my research paper in College Prep English on F. Scott Fitzgerald because I found something like forty books about his novels. It was the first sign that college was going to be really cool.

l__summer-west-flowers-smThe library I used most as a child, though, is about five miles away, in the county seat. I talked about it a long time ago. If I had formative experiences for becoming a historian, one of them was the plat book I found there that introduced me to my close geographical connection with Joseph McCarthy. They also had summer reading programs, which I loved. And they would inter-library loan anything in a public library in the entire state, so if they were missing just one title in a series of books I’d loved, I could get that. This is also the only library I use now, and its collection is surprisingly good, I find, for a public library. I have a quibble here for there; for example, their February display was “Groundhog Day” and not “Black History Month,” but they have had every Nigerian novel I’ve recently wanted in their collection. And, for example, I found some non-public domain material there that surprised me a little this last fall. I think the only thing they haven’t had that I wanted was some books on tension as an aspect of theater. Something cool about it: it has a basement level with a bunch of tropical plants where one can go and sit, when the weather gets to be a little too much. Public libraries in general seem to be under attack at the moment, but our community still seems very supportive of ours, and in fact there’s talk of expanding and moving it in the next few years, now that the economy has revived a bit.

Can I say that walking into that building always gives me a pleasant feeling? I love the way the books smell there. And there are always community programs going on in Spanish and Hmong. If there’s integration at work anywhere in my county, the public library is the place. And just like bartenders, the librarians are always happy to see you.

Continued here.

~ by Servetus on March 3, 2017.

18 Responses to “Some libraries I have known: Childhood libraries”

  1. Irgendwas klingelt bei mir, wenn ich Trixue Belden höre, sehr sogar. Muss ich auch gelesen haben. 😊


    • there were German ones:


      • So langsam lichtet sich der Nebel: ich habe die Hörspiele auf Schallplatte gehört. Cool, wie die Erinnerung sofort auf den Namen reagiert.


        • I was amused that some of the German ones changed the place names to German locations because the US names would be “gar nicht aussprechbar.”


          • Ja, an Fürsorglichkeit am deutschen Leser/Hörerhat es damals wahrlich nicht gefehlt. Ich fand es auch immer unerträglich, wenn aus Miss, Fräulein wurde. Das klang mir unerträglich, weil gerade die Anreden für mich das “Typische” ausmachte.


            • so true — sometimes we read books like this precisely because of the foreignness. “Heidi” wouldn’t be the same without “Fräulein Rottemeier” either — Miss Rottenmeier wouldn’t do it.


  2. As a young girl I have had to go to ballett classes, but I have often skiped it and went to the library instead. At that time the library was in the castle of my hometown with wooden bookshelves. I loved the special smell there and the quietness. It was a little bit like entering in an other universe. And I have loved to read Trixie Belden


    • Another Trixie Belden fan!

      I didn’t meet up with a library in a castle until I was over 30, but it was a great experience. Must have been neat to have that as a child. Did it feel special because of that?


      • Yes and no. I grew up in a small town with historic town centre and a baroque palace so it was normal for me to see daily the ancient buildings. But nevertheless the visits of the library in the baroque palace were special due to the old interior, the parquet floor and plastering. With each step the floor creaked. It was a timeless place for me, away from outside world. Due to space contraints and badly needed modernization the library moved to the former remise.


        • parquet floors are truly wonderful.

          It’s a thing that’s always amused me about Europeans — the way you wander among the remains of thousands of years of permanent human settlement like it’s nothing.


  3. […] from here. This is in response to the most recent “Mach was” challenge, which concerns the library […]


  4. Although I had all the Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder and so many more at home, I have vivid library memories. I read like a fiend from the time I could flip through The Golden Books. My library was a smaller branch of the main town library, which was up in the center of town. I read all the Beatrix Potter over and over when I was young, and I still love them. My favorite is Mrs. Tiggywinkle, which is the reason I, and so my family refer to all things Potter as Hankins. However, what I will never forget from my childhood at the library are the Maud Hart Lovelace books. Betsy, Tacy + Tib will always be with me, from early days through adulthood. Plenty of adult books have stuck with me, but those aren’t the same as the books of childhood imagination. One of the first things I did when I moved to my little town of 3000 some people was go to the tiny library in the historic stone house, to explore and get my new card.


    • it’s impossible to forget Betsy and Tacy!

      There’s something of merit in every library, I find. I’ve used some great ones but I haven’t loved htem any more than some of the smallest I’ve used.


  5. I read this on my phone while I was on the train earlier today but my comment didn’t go through. Second try. 🙂
    Trixie Belden I have read maybe one or two books, but can’t really remember any plots. I liked Nancy Drew more, read a few of those. Laura Ingalls Wilder, however, I absolutely loved!
    Lovely reading this, thanks for sharing!


  6. […] nimmt uns auf eine Reise durch einige ihr bekannte Bibliotheken mit: Bibliotheken ihrer Kindheit Bibliotheken während ihres Studiums Servetus Bibliotheken von 1991 bis 1995 Die beste Bibliothek […]


  7. […] Today I went back to the public library. I go there several times each week. I wrote about my love for it here and here. […]


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