Friday, October 29, 2010

My Library Memories

I can remember the first time I went to the Mercer County Public Library, it was still located in historic Morgan Row. The building was old and this was in the late 1960s, so the wooden floors squeaked as you walked across them. Although the building held only a limited number of books, it was like the church sanctuary to me. I felt calm and at peace and free to touch and look at all the old books.

I didn’t get to go to the library much when it moved to the corner of Lexington and Main Street, but I did use the Bookmobile. I can’t remember what day the Bookmobile came to Riverview, but I always had a list of books I was looking for. Many times the Bookmobile Librarian would recommend a new book, but more times than not, she would have to bring the books I wanted back to me in two weeks.

As an elementary student, my favorite library was at Mercer County Elementary School. Ms. Joy Gash instilled the love of books and reading into my heart and I’ll forever be grateful to her. She always knew the perfect books to choose for me and many times would quiz me on what I had read. Even at this early age, I grew an attachment to certain books and when I started my own home library, these were the books I started with. “A Wrinkle in Time,” “Little Women,” “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret,” and the “Betsy” books were just a few of my favorites. I never was much for Nancy Drew, but I loved Trixie Belden.

It was my babysitter’s daughter who got me attached to Trixie Belden. I read all her books and then had to have my own collection. These were my pride and joy and I read each one of them so many times, I knew them by heart. Momma would always take me to J. J. Newberry Department Store on Main Street to find the newest book.

When I was 16, I thought I had outgrown Trixie, so I let a neighbor girl borrow my books – I never saw them again. When I started having children of my own, I would buy Trixie Belden books to read to them, but by this time, the books were all paperback. If I’m going to have a book in my home collection, it has to be a hardcover –unless the book comes no other way.

I had the Whitman 1970s edition of the hardcover books – the original 16 books. One year for Christmas, my wonderful hubby surprised me with a boxed set of all 16 of the Trixie books, just like the ones I had. He had monitored eBay for weeks trying to find just the right editions and the most perfect condition. You could tell that the girl who owned this new set of books had loved them and read them often, because I could feel her presence in every well-worn page and gently cracked spine. This has been one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever.

When I had my first children, the library was one of the first places I took the girls when they were old enough to behave in public. At three and four-years-old, Marie and Amber would attend summer library story hour with Mrs. Kathleen Day and the girls loved it. We would check out several books for the week. It was harder to make time for the library when I started nursing school, but we made do by checking out even more books when we went.

By the time Christine was born, Marie and Amber were not as interested in reading and had quit letting me read to them at bedtime. So, I read to Christine, even though she wasn’t old enough to understand.

When Christine was old enough to attend the library story time, Mrs. Day was still there and Christine fell instantly in love with her. We couldn’t check out enough books to last a full week and we ended up making two to three trips to the library per week.

Christine loved books so much, she started to have her own favorites, just like I did. If we would check out the same book more than four or five times from the library, then we would have to try and buy this book to have at home. Sometimes these books were easy to find; others were a little harder because they were older. One example is “The Best Little Christmas Tree” – we had to have it ordered from Tony Sexton’s bookstore that used to be where the Mercer Humane Society is now. We still read this book at Christmas and it still makes me cry.

About three years ago, I started a book blog – Bobbi’s Book Nook – and would post reviews of the books I read. It is unbelievable the number of book review blogs there are on the Internet. I was shocked; I had no idea there were so many. Even though the blog was for my personal use – mainly to help me keep track of the books I had read – I soon realized I enjoyed writing books reviews. Now I have a book review column “Kentucky Monthly Magazine” and for “GoodReads.”

With the opening of the brand-new Mercer County Public Library, I feel like a little kid again. No longer creeping across creaky wooden floors, but browsing almost 10,000 square feet of books and magazine. Some people may think enlarging the library was a waste of time and money, but for avid readers like myself, it is a treasure to the versatility of our community.

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