Shhh…

Two years ago, I didn’t think we’d ever come to the point of wanting any new kids’ books.  Since Harper was born, we’ve had bins and baskets and bookshelves full of Goodnight Moon, and One Fish Two Fish, and just about every Sandra Boynton board book available. But then the unthinkable happened: we ran out of books. We’d read them all so many times that even Harper (who can read the same book ten times in one day and not get bored) was tired of them.

I found myself thinking, “If only there was a place with a lot of new and different books that we could borrow for free and return when we are done…”

And then I remembered that there is such a magical place! We set off the next afternoon for the library in downtown Greensboro. (This, by the way, is one of the things I love about Greensboro: “downtown” is an actual place, with tall buildings and restaurants and museums and theaters, but it only takes two minutes to get there and doesn’t cost a fortune to park. Going “downtown” in Chicago and DC was an entirely different thing).

Anyway, the Central Library is lovely, and just what you want from a library: the big lobby is all tile and stone with a huge statue of an eagle in the center. It’s the kind of space where even a whisper carries a long way, which somehow serves all the more as a reminder that one is expected to be quiet in this place. At the far end of the lobby, a big staircase leads upstairs and give the impression that the stacks of books goes on forever, and along with it, the knowledge and mystery contained in all those printed words.

The children’s room is off to the right of the lobby, and it too seems to go on forever, with book racks and comfy chairs just the right size for little readers. There’s a castle structure in the middle of the room, with a “tunnel” (as Harper calls it) that’s perfect for crawling into with a book.

We’ve now fallen into a routine of stopping by the library on most Friday afternoons. We return the books we’re done with – I thought that Harper would protest giving them up, but so far, the fun of putting the books on the conveyor belt that takes them into the “returns” bin seems to outweigh any grief at their departure – and then we go searching for more.

Occasionally, we go upstairs to find a book I’ve been looking for. The long, silent rows are too great a temptation for a three-year-old, however, even one who is trying very hard to be a good listener, and she usually pulls away from me and darts down the aisle. So most of the time, we head straight for the children’s room. We find a book or two and read them right there, and then we pick out five to take home. (I figure if we always have five, I’ll always know how many we have to return.)

For awhile, we just grabbed the first five we saw, but that sometimes led to some odd selections. There was the story of a giraffe that was a gift from France to England, which would have been interesting had not half the book been in French. Or there was the book about a brother and sister fighting in the backseat of the car; the entire text was the insults and threats they yelled at each other. One week, completely by accident, we picked out two books about bears and hats, and two that had no words at all. My mother was particularly (and rightly) disturbed by a book about a princess who wanted to have a baby but she wasn’t married so she made one by baking it in the oven.

So now, I scan them briefly before bringing them home, which helps. This week, we’re reading about a little girl whose daddy tells her a bedtime story, a family that celebrates Ramadan, and a boy who tries to explain love to three creatures who’ve never heard of it.

Books never cease to amaze me. I suppose it’s inevitable that Harper will eventually be reading books on screens, and maybe libraries will someday just be museums of old books. And certainly, the time will come when Harper will have more interesting things to do on Friday afternoons than go to the library with her mother. For the time being, though, we’ll keep bring home our five books a week; there’s certainly no shortage of stories.




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