Friday, June 16, 2006

Books That Are Not Damp

When Pamie posted about her annual book drive, now named the Dewey Donation System, I read eagerly, being fond of libraries and also being a sucker for a cute logo (he's a decimal, get it?). In the past, she's fundraised for a burned-out library in San Diego, and last year her drive supplied schoolbooks for an entire Indian village devastated by the tsunami. This year, she's supporting a post-Katrina district in Mississippi.

I put the Dewey Donation System on my to-do list, and given the ample company it has there, might have forgotten about it, except that some of my favorite bloggers have been sharing library stories this week. Doppelganger at 50 Books (who gave that recommendation about 44 Scotland Street from the author of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series) wrote, so did M.Giant (who is married to a librarian and entertains us with adorable stories about baby M. Small), and then John Scalzi of The Whatever interviewed Pamie and posted the story. Thanks for the reminder, guys!

I've selected two books for the Biloxi library, and my library story is below. Take a look at the Dewey Donation System website – be warned, book-lovers, it includes sad pictures of ruined books and destroyed buildings. Q has an unfortunate habit of chewing on the corners of books and leaving them damp, but that's nothing compared to this. If you happen to have a few spare dollars, please consider sending them a book!

There are many libraries I've visited, frequented, and perused, but my first library, the one where it could be said that I dwelled, was the Northeast Elementary School Library. I remember walking the long ramp (up from the kindergarten and first grade rooms, down from the second grade rooms), carefully carrying the hall pass to the library building and passing the small circulation desk, where Mrs. Crawford sat.

Vivacious Mrs. Yale was the librarian, but it was Mrs. Crawford, a large grandmotherly lady, who helped us younger ones find magical new worlds. After selecting a precious book and bringing it to the desk, I'd write my name in the card, she'd check the date on the stamper, tap the ink pad, and cha-chunk! The due date would be emblazoned in the book card. Not that I cared all that much what the date was, since I'd read the book that night and have it back in the morning anyway.

Years later at Stanford in the 90's, I was horrified to find that their amazing library system was not yet fully computerized, so I had to laboriously write name, phone number, and address on a card for each book, a lengthy process for those freshman research papers! Later, we could just swipe our student IDs and bar codes on the books like any normal library, but it felt like returning to the dark ages that one year.

In the Northeast Library, I read and re-read about Mrs. Moon, Eddie and his glockenspiel (what was the name of that series? All I can remember is that I wanted to play the glockenspiel), Encyclopedia Brown, Shel Silverstein. I think I finished the entire Children's Biography series at some point. In 5th grade, my classmate Sandy told me to read The Hobbit. I searched under T in the fiction section until I found it, devoured it, and launched a lifetime love of Tolkein, entirely unrelated to the charm of Orlando Bloom.

Mrs. Crawford maintained a little shop on one side of the circulation desk. I would bring in my allowance every few weeks to buy a fold-out book. Each little book would have a series of pictures and facts about a different topic – breeds of horses (my favorite), models of airplanes, types of cats. It almost didn't matter what the topic was. My friends and I were building a collection!

One day, the publisher stopped printing new ones. I don't recall how we found out. Perhaps Mrs. Crawford told us? In any case, the library shop was the occasion of my first and most successful business letter. Debbie and I carefully printed our plea for the company to continue the series, writing on every other line of our notebook paper as we'd be taught. Jackpot! The company must have thought we were cute and sent us the rest of their stock to be divided between us.

I'm pretty sure I bought a copy of Little House on the Prairie from the library shop as a Christmas gift for mom, certain that she'd love it. I need to remember that for the future day when I receive a really oddly chosen gift from Q.

I did a web search on the school tonight and was happy to see that they're still open and busy. Good books, good times, good memories.


Bob said...

Good story about your love of books.And what a speedy reader you are.
When T and I worked at the WPI library, it was all Dewey Decimal system. I had to burn the white numbers onto the spine of the books
with a soldering iron.

lara said...

from one writer to another, that was an excellent post. :)

Anonymous said...

I always wondered how those white letters were achieved. I thought it was some type of pen with white-out.

Fourth Breakfast

Lady M said...

Bob - Fourth Breakfast and I are going to have to ask more about that library story. You helped them figure out a big move too, right?

Kari - Thank you! :)