Library books and staff inspire a lifelong reading habit
Imust have fallen in love with the librarian.
It was risky; she was an older woman — older by about 50 years — but I was in her spell.
Her name has vanished in the mists of time, but I can see her still, very prim, her hair piled up in a twist of gray, and it was pierced with a Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil, with a tiny rubber date stamp.
Her name was Mrs. Huish, and I became one of her favorite customers, I think.
It took several visits before she smiled at me, but when she did, I knew this was it; in fact, if she liked me there was a possibility of being able to check out more than two books at a time — and, if I was lucky, she might even waive the two cents a day late fee.
The Douglas Public Library wasn’t much of a library, a couple of walls of books in the City Council chamber with shelves that I found were usually hidden behind sheets of plywood that were removed only for those few hours each week the “library” was open.
Even so, I read every book I could get my hands on.
When we moved to Payson, Utah, a metropolis of nearly 3,000 folks, I discovered that the junior high school library had more books than the Douglas Public Library had, and once more, I fell in love with the librarian.
Mrs. Amos was her name, and she was also my English teacher. Even though I know I had to be one of her worst students, she liked me and bent rules to allow me extra access to the library.
She had her pencil with the date stamp as well and kept it tucked away in her hairdo. In three years, I read pretty much every book within reach.
Even after Sharon and I were first married, I read as much as I could.
We were living a long way from the library but, wonder of wonders, a “Bookmobile” appeared one day in a parking lot across from our home, and began to make weekly appearances. I was in bookworm heaven. Both Sharon and I became regulars.
Once again, I became very fond of the librarian, but the mobile version was without the bifocals and piled up hairdo; she was much younger.
And she had one of those little date stamps on her pencil.
Reading every night in bed before I turn off the lights is a lifelong habit, and after I retired and we moved to Fort Collins, we were in the library every week.
Gone were the grandmotherly librarians; in their place were younger persons who used computers for most of their work.
The yellow Ticonderoga pencils with the date stamps were gone.
Thirteen years ago we moved to Loveland, and in those years since we’ve checked out possibly 1,000 books, and read most of them.
Gone is the human connection though. Your books and videos are placed on a scanner, a receipt printed, and you’re on your way.
Just this past week we visited Loveland’s “Love-ly” library, and just as we entered we discovered a wonderful new feature — the Friends of the Library book nook.
It’s manned (or “womanned”) by a trio of ladies, members of the Friends of the Library, who are very helpful, and they offer pristine used books for sale for a fraction of their original prices; $5 for hardbound books! This is a great way to save money, and to bring in funds for new material for the library.
Check it out when you visit the library.
Oh, and if you don’t mind, do me a favor. Let me know if you spot one of those yellow pencils with a date stamp impaled in any hairdo.
Mike Foley is a Loveland retiree. Find his columns online at reporterherald.com/tag/what-a-life.
What a Life