When I was a toddler and my brother a baby, my mom would bring my brother and me to the Brookwood Library in Hillsboro. It was quite a drive from my house, but my mom would like to meet her friend(who had kids my brother and my age). Us kids would sit in a pack of wiggling toddlers, listening to the librarian read from a picture book and play with funny-looking puppets. After the story-time, we would spend time checking out books from the library and then running around in the park adjacent to the building. Eventually, we would crash from all the excitement and my mom would wave goodbye to her friend, and drive us home, my brother and I sleep in the car.
I know she probably brought us as a way to wear us out and to see a friend, but those earlier were the beginning of my love from the library.
As a Preschool student, my brother and I would stay with our neighbor Deb (who had kids my brother and my age) during the day when my parents were at work. Everyone week, Deb would take my brother and me and her kids to the library to hang out and check out books. In the corners of the children’s section of the cedar mill library, we would sit on bean bags flipping through picture books and national geographic magazines. Eventually, as I learned to read, I was able to check out my own pictures. And because I was a stereotypical 5-year-old girl, I found the Rainbow Magic early reader chapter books.
In early elementary school, I absolutely devoured these books. I would go to the library and take a whole stack of the series with their glossy, colorful illustrations on the covers. I still remember my heart swelling with pride the first time I was able to read the whole chapter book all by myself.
Throughout elementary school I checked out many books, being a frequent library patron with my parents. But on a Saturday in the spring of 5th grade, my mom started to allow me to walk the 10 minutes to the library with my down-the-street neighbor, Ruby. Ruby and I would borrow my mom’s phone(in case of an emergency) and walk up to the library in the morning. On our walk to the small Bethany library, we could excitedly chat about our siblings, elementary school adventures, and what sorts of books we read. Ruby recommended a series of teen novels, the Alex Rider series. The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz was about a British teen who became an agent for MI6. When we got to the library, I timidly pattered into the teen section, a place I had never been before. I found the books on the bottom shelf of one of the grey, metal bookshelves. I grabbed the first book and crept over to the librarian at the desk. I stood stiff and nervous as she scanned the book, worried that she would scold me, a 5th grader, about checking out the book. But instead, she simply said “this is a popular book with middle schools”, relieving my anxiety. When I got home, I started the first novel Stormbreaker. Over the course of the next few months, I excitedly consumed the entire series, immersed in the charters and the action-filled plots. I felt so grown up, reading more complex action novels, and comprehending them as someone below the target audience. Ruby and I would frequently talk about the books in class and on walks. It felt so cool to be part of something and hang out with someone who shared my interests.
Reading YA books really got me hooked on the library. I would walk up almost every week to get a new book or movies on DVD. I loved the independence I felt, being able to check out books and go whenever I pleased. And the summer of 2019 I volunteered at the summer reading table helping spread the love of reading to younger kids by signing them up for summer reading. Being able to volunteer made me feel even close to the library. I was able to spread my excitement I felt about the library to others.
But then on March 13th, 2020 the library closed. I knew was the safest choice for our community, but it still felt so strange. Libraries have been such a constant in my life, and to not be able to check out felt huge, despite how small it was in the grand scheme of things. I tried to fill the library-shaped hole in my life by reading books I own but hadn’t read and biking around my neighborhood looking for free little library boxes. I had taken the ability to check out when I wanted and the community the library had provided for granted. When the library opened back up for curbside, it was such a relief. I know it will be a long time before things will go back to normal, and I can browse the library safely. In the meantime I got a position on the teen library council, immersing me in the community and making me feel more connected to the library and reading, just as I had as a wiggly toddler, sitting on the floor.