05 Jul “My library today”; by Judith Levy Leipold, Class of 1963.
My library today
I just finished reading “The Library book” by Susan Orlean. I’m not presenting you with a review of the book (but, personally I think you should read it). Basically, the “hook” presented is a “who done it” looking back at the 1986 fire in the LA Central Library. Instead, the real premise is examining the role of libraries, not just the collection of ‘stuff’ but the services as well as “who DOES it”…the librarian!
My earliest recollection of a school library was at Montauk Highway Elementary School in Oakdale. My 5th grade desk was in the rear corner of the room, inches away from a closet that was retrofitted with 4-5 shelves housing the school’s library. I was able to watch the daily changes, books leaving, being returned, or being added. Then, people watching, as students came by to see what was being offered. If all the former action lacked, I daydreamed about each title that sat unattended.
My mom was a reader, so weekly visits to the Sayville Library became the norm. Shopping bags of books being returned and an equal amount being borrowed. Most of the books were for her. All areas were explored and treasures were found. Into the bag went books about art, cookery, history, gardening, biography, travel and mystery. I was always able to find something as well…Nancy Drew, and later, art and cookbooks. The books mattered but the relationships were more important. I became familiar with all the librarians. In my child’s eye, everyone who worked there (volunteers included) must be a librarian.
In SHS, I volunteered for Miss Carolyn Dow, my librarian, as a student assistant. I was given the responsibility of an entire book truck to shelve each book back to it’s unique place. Did you know that in any library there is only one unique place for each book’s location?
In 1971, as a young woman, married with one toddler and pregnant with another, the library became one of the few places we could afford to go and be welcomed. One of the librarians (Mrs. Hubbard) knew we were looking to buy our first home. She called me over to tell me about the home next door to hers that was about to be put on the market. A phone number was handed to me, along with a new copy of Jean Hewitt’s “Natural foods cook book.” Within one month we were proud owners of a Dutch Colonial on West Ave. in W. Sayville. I loved the home as well as the cook book. I splurged and bought my own “forever” copy of the book.
Within a few years I got my MLS, I arrived, a librarian! I worked in Selby Library (Sarasota, FL) but ended up with a 32 year career as a school librarian, a media specialist! I gladly worked in elementary schools (storytelling and enticing lifetime readers!) as well as middle and high schools. In one particular middle school I was “warned” by the outgoing media specialist of her locked room of banned books. My imagination soared. What could that room possibly contain that would be considered worth banning?
Turns out the dangerous stuff was the previous librarian. I found 3-4 shelves of captured information waiting to be freed. I spotted “Diary of a young girl” by Anne Frank as well as several books by Mark Twain. Then there were a few books on menstruation (with illustrations!) and sexual development. Also to be found, a large collection of books on dinosaurs (…yup!) along with anything that leaned towards the support of evolution, including several biographies of Darwin. That was the year I championed intellectual freedom in my county and soon became Florida’s FAME Intellectual Freedom chairperson.
Truly, librarianship was, and remains, my passion. How could it not? I retired in 2010, but libraries continue to be my constant. When I travel, I seek faraway libraries often visiting their “Friends Book Store” and leaving with a treasured purchase. When I am looking for a favorite classic or new best seller I find myself visiting my local library. On a lazy summer day (or the other 364 days of the year) I always find a quiet place to sit and read…I call this place of wonder “My Library Today”.
So, tell me, what impact have libraries had on you? And, more important, where is your library today?