It occurred to me the other day, in the context of a conversation about publicly-funded health care, that we already have socialized services in place. A whole program subsidized by our taxes, where the goods are collectively owned and operated. It's our public library. And boy-how, do I love the library.
I always have, really. I have fond memories of heading to our town library as a child. Lois Wagner was our librarian and she always had a smile on her face when we walked in. I can still hear her cheerful voice greeting us by name.
Oh the time I spent in those stacks. Desperately searching for a book I hadn't read. I'd whipped through the children's and young adult books at an early age and was on to the adult section by 4th grade -- swapping recommendations with my teachers.
The sounds of the protective plastic covering adjusting & the binding cracking.... the waff of stale paper... the weight of knowledge or a good story in my hands... I was in heaven.
You know that question well-meaning adults are always asking children? The one they ask with a oh-you're-so-cute-grin on their face -- "And what do you want to be when you grow up?". Well, I'd proudly answer "A librarian". They would chuckle in surprise at my unorthodox answer but to me, it was an ideal job -- to be surrounded by books, cataloging and organizing them all day. What else would I want to do?
It wasn't until later in life that I learned that you have to have a masters degree, and often a PhD to hold the title of "Librarian". Who knew I was setting my aspirations so high at such a young age?
Now that I live in a town large enough to have more than one library and more than one librarian, I find it such a novelty that you can transfer books between libraries. No need to drive more than the few blocks to my local Van Wyck branch to get that book that's available in the downtown branch. They'll just bring it over for me and give me a nice little call letting me know I can pick it up at my leisure. [By the way, Van Wyck is a family name on my Dad's side. Coincidence? Hmmm]
So yesterday I drove to my branch to pick up the held book. I arrived just a few minutes before opening time and guess what I saw? A line. Yes folks, a line of people waiting for the library to open. I counted a total of 14 people. Some sitting, some reading, all enjoying the sun. I couldn't help but smile at each and every one of my fellow library-lovers, all waiting to be the first to enter it's hallowed halls. It gave me a boost for the day, a little extra confidence in society. A gratefulness for our socialized system in a democratic country and for my librarian, who happily handed me my next read as I walked in the door.
~ color photo of Lois Wagner Memorial Library courtesy of Richmond Township website
~ black and white photo of Van Wyck library taken in 1916 -- Norfolk's first branch library -- and courtesy of Norfolk Public Library website.