The Library: A Child’s View

By Linda Starkey

When I was a little girl, going downtown to the library was a wonderful treat. I loved the smell of the books, the cool air and hushed voices. The sound of the date return stamp machine at the front desk. The library held a unique kind brand of adventure.

I escaped long, hot Winston-Salem summers via word time travel to watch and listen in my imagination, people far away in castles, explorers of exotic lands, and wild westheroes, or southern tall tales about a rabbit who loved to be thrown in a briar patch. I eagerly sought out the latest “Highlights for Children” and remember being highly aggravated if another kid thoughtlessly marked the “hidden pictures.” 

I thought the newspaper holders, rather like quilt racks with newspapers draped over the slatted rolls, were totally fascinating. Men in the business suits sat at large tables, with their newspaper choice spread out like wings before them. 

Opening and closing card catalog drawers immitted an organic wooden sound as patrons looked up availability and location of the needed book for research or pleasure reading. Sometimes, I stood before an open drawer, simply reading the cards. All that knowledge in one place! So much I didn’t know and never would. But the lure of the pursuit of knowledge is still as strong for me as ever was even if the medium and means have changed. 

The internet, while powerful and holding far more information at the tips of my fingers, can never provide the same aesthetic, comforting feeling as holding a book in myhands. While awe inspiring, it fails to provide the wonder, the smell, the quiet excitement of possibilities I remember experiencing as a young child in the 50s.

photo by Polina Zimmerman