In honor of National Library Week, I'm happy to say that I have always loved the library. There is something about being surrounded by books that is like a salve. Bookshelves and baskets overflowing with books fill my home and I'm only happy with a couple books and my Kindle on my bedside table. If I'm in a great mood when I go to the library, the prospect of meeting new characters or becoming reacquainted with old favorites, finding new adventures and learning more information makes me even happier. When I'm not in such a great mood, like today, my negativity seems to dissipate as soon as I walk into the home of thousands of stories.
Books have inspired for as long as I can remember. Whether I was listening to stories at home and during story time at the Northport-East Northport Public Library, using a flashlight to read in the backseat of my parents' car during evening rides home from my grandparents' house or working at the library while I was in high school, books played an integral role in my life. The library has changed since I was a kid. I order books through the library's online catalog so they are waiting for me to pick up, I check out books using the library card on my key ring and computers fill large areas of the building. But the joy that comes from perusing the shelves and jumping into adventures from around the world remains.
My kids love going to the library, too. Joseph, 8, is a voracious reader, who loves going to check out stories and page through nonfiction books. He recently was thrilled to attend a writing workshop, during which an author provided tips on crafting a story. Joseph also got to hone is Scrabble skills at the library thanks to the kindness of a 14-year-old Scrabble whiz I wrote about for The Cary News. When Erik Salgado heard that my son enjoys playing the board game, he offered to share some tips. Joseph was so excited when Erik, who won the National School Scrabble Championship this week with Andy Hoang, and his mom spent a couple of hours with Joseph in a study room at the library teaching him the ins and outs of the game. We even caught a showing of "Kung Fu Panda 2" on the library's big screen. These opportunities are all free and free of food.
Because there is no food or drink allowed, the library is a place where Joseph, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, milk, egg, soy, sesame and mustard, feels safe. He doesn't spend his time looking over his shoulders to make sure no one is eating ice cream or peanut butter sandwiches near him. Sure our love of the library has been tested over the years. For example, when Joseph was younger the kids munching on cheesy fish-shaped crackers (which inevitably made it onto the floor) during story time made him uncomfortable. When I mentioned the issue at the library we now frequent to prevent cheesy crumbs inhibiting our fun when Joseph comes with us to Pamela's story time, they nicely announced it at the start of story time and we've not had any food issues at this library. He's also had to stop reading a few books because his eyes got itchy or he had an asthma flare-up while reading them. Yes, the fact that library books can accumulate dust or go in homes with pets and other various allergens can pose a risk for Joseph. As always, we are prepared to deal with the risks Joseph's allergies pose. But for the most part, his library experiences have been fantastic. And those books that do cause issues are simply returned to the library and replaced with other adventures for Joseph to jump into.
Today, story time helped wash away the last of my bad mood. I couldn't help but smile as soon as Pamela, 3, and the other kids stood up to sing about gardening and pretend to dig. Although there is no registration required, the weekly 25-minute gathering where preschoolers can enjoy books, music and flannel board stories is on our calendar just like ballet, tennis and all of our other activities. Each week, Pamela listens intently to Miss Sue and participates in all of the interactive fun. Today, she was excited to hold up a picture of a bunny with the number 8 on it when her number came up during the reading of "10 Hungry Rabbits" by Anita Lobel. After story time, she enjoys selecting books then claiming a spot on our favorite funky red bench to discover new stories.
As we packed our extremely worn library bag full of new selections today, my love for the library was once again reaffirmed. As the three of us walked out into the windy day, we talked about which books we would read first and of course, how soon we would return.