Swimming, running through sprinklers, and water balloon fights are fun ways to beat the heat, but what if there’s a way to cool off without looking like a drowned weasel? A trip to our town’s public library made me rediscover the magic of literature, and the free air conditioning didn’t hurt either. Housed in a brand new, purpose-built structure, the library has become a heat-free refuge for myself and my offspring, Andy and Molly. When tempers have frayed or our house became too stuffy, we’ve piled into our trusty Dodge Caravan and made the short trip into town. Walking in through the library doors is like walking into an old friend’s house. Amazingly, there’s a little café inside – if I wasn’t enticed before, I sure am now!
Libraries have changed since I was a kid. The one from my childhood was dark, dim, and full of ugly brown furniture. There was always the vague smell of cheese, and someone was always coughing. The children’s section consisted of a smelly, stained rug with tattered copies of alphabet books scattered around. Despite that, I spent many happy hours hiding amongst the stacks, reading to my heart’s content. I remember joyfully playing with the old microfiche machines, not understanding how they worked, then quietly retreating once they broke. Newspapers hung from wooden rods in a specially made contraption, and magazines were enclosed in plastic covers. This was pre-internet and pre-computer, so to locate a book you’d search in the card catalog, a system of dozens of file cabinets that took up half the room. Papercuts were a given as you shuffled through tiny index cards, and you’d better hope they were still alphabetized. Sometimes, my mother gave me money to buy lunch from the sandwich shop next door. Oh, to be a kid in a library once more!
Now, I get to watch my kids enjoy the library, with its educational toys and comfortable couches. Andy’s taken a keen interest, asking “can we go to the libwary?” almost every day. He loves playing with the build-a-blocks but struggles with the concept of sharing (which isn’t my favorite thing, either). Molly would rather be riding her bike, but I’m hoping she’ll come around. What’s not to love? With art classes, story time, and activities galore, we’ll be spending lots of time there. Most importantly: the library’s air-conditioned and our house isn’t!