Almost everywhere I’ve lived, the public library has been a hub – a place for people to get information, to meet, to get warm on a rainy day, to use the bathroom. But probably nowhere has this been more true that in rural communities. There, the library is the place where you get the latest news about the high school girl who was kidnapped, where you pick up the local author’s newest book, where you can still find print versions of your tax forms.
So this week, my friend Sarah and I took some time on her visit to stop at the local Madison County Library. It sits in a historic house with white pillars and a beautiful old staircase. The front parlor holds the magazines, and upstairs, they have their book sale and a small room with local history items in it. Then, on the back, they’ve added a large space with quite an impressive selection of print books, audio books, and movies. (The movies are particularly great because there is no where to rent movies here besides the gift of Redboxes, and on our country internet – via satellite – we don’t have enough data to stream anything.)
It took me about 5 seconds to get my library card. No ID, no mail with our current address necessary. Just a brief form with the name and number of someone who doesn’t live in my household (thanks, Dad!), and I was all set. I got a cardboard card with a barcode stickered onto it, and within 5 minutes, I had my first book – an audio version of Deborah Harkness’s The Book of Life.
Then, Sarah and I spent some time in the book sale room, and she picked up some fun titles as well as one book she’d been looking for a while. When she went to pay, the librarian reminded her she could get a whole bag of books for $5.00 and then discounted her purchase to $2 when Sarah said she didn’t need the bag. Love that.
My mom was a huge supporter of the local library – both with her patronage and her inability to return books on time and willingness to pay the fines. We joke that she funded the new library building. And I am the same. I never fret over getting a book back on time because I believe wholeheartedly in the work of local libraries and gladly give a few dollars to that work when something is late. (I do always rush books back when they’ve been requested by another patron, though.)
And I’m eager to patronize the Madison County Library all the more. This week, I’m dedicating my afternoons to local research, and one afternoon, I’ll sit among the local stacks and make notes about the people and places that make my new home just who it is.
I expect the kind gentleman who got me my card and went into the back to get me literature about the library’s needs will help me and share his own stories of this place in the process. I can’t wait.
What’s your local library like? Post a link or picture if you would.