The Library in Ipswich Massachusetts, where I grew up, was an old brick building with a pretty ivy-covered entrance. The main entrance wasn't for me - it was, after all, to the adult section.
When I went to the Library I turned right and made my way down a set of outdoor steps to the subterranean children’s section where I loaded up. The library was a short walk from home and I went often. It gave me independence. I could get there on my own and pick out my own books, by myself.
During my walks to and from I would inhabit other worlds – Heidi in the Swiss Alps climbing through the snow drifts; or Anne of Green Gables puzzling out her existence on Prince Edward Island; or a young Anne Frank, escaping from her attic hiding place and finding her way to freedom (in your imagination you can change the endings if you like).
I remember the desperation of being curled up on the couch at home with a book I was about to finish and realizing the library was already closed. It was torture to be unable to get a new book until the next day – or even after the weekend. I had no Facebook or Candy Crush to alleviate the boredom until I could get the next book in the series. And anyway I didn’t want something else to do. I wanted the glorious feeling of being completely engrossed in a story.
As I look at my bedside table overflowing with books I haven’t had time to read, I reach back in memory to that boredom, that listlessness of wandering dramatically through the rooms in our house. I wish.
The library in my grown-up town is very different from that little space in Ipswich. This one has a light and airy children’s room with computers and story time. There is a café off the main lobby where local writers gather or moms with strollers clog the passageways. A large section is devoted to books on tape, and another to DVDs of movies. The elderly sit side-by-side with school children at computer monitors, surfing the web and checking their email. The entrance is not ivy covered, and the bricks are in the walkway, inscribed with the names of benefactors from a long-ago fundraiser. The card catalogue has been replaced by an on-line catalogue, through which one can check if a book is available here or in another library, in another town.
I imagine my old Library in Ipswich has evolved, too, and has many of the amenities one would expect in 2014. But I prefer leaving it intact in my memory, as it was when a young girl relied on its bountiful shelves.