Children's Book ShelvesBy Helen Gregg Ι Nov. 11, 2016

I love libraries. I grew up going to the library in whatever town we lived in close by the base where my dad was stationed, or we would go to the library on the base. So I saw a lot of libraries. I was fortunate enough to have parents who invested in a set of books called an encyclopedia with annual updates, but for everything else, we went to the library. All through high school, I spent lots of time in the city library in a suburb of San Diego, never expecting that it would be anything different than what it was in the 1950s-1980s. These wonderful buildings were “the bookstore that let everyone come” and read, borrow for a while maybe and learn about bringing back something borrowed. I loved those libraries.

But by the time I became the mom who brought children to the library, things changed. The library still remained the welcoming “bookstore for everyone.” We could read for free. I brought myself to the library frequently and checked out books and read every chance I got, but in the ’80s my children had more than one channel available on TV and most of them were in color. We all remained hungry for stories, but I had grown up with written stories, and my children grew up with the mixture of written and visual stories. The world changes.

So after we moved to Salina, while I was busy with this and that, making my library visits brief and less frequent, the library changed too. I came one day and found books recorded on cassette tapes so I could listen to books while I drove around carpooling and waiting for a child’s music lesson to be over. I thought WOW, this is cool. These things are really expensive at the bookstore, and I can come here and listen for free. So, at heart, the library hadn’t changed at all. As the world changed, the library embraced it and remained “the bookstore that let everyone come” and read.  

Now we find ourselves in the 21st century, and we are used to having so many channels on TV, and life seems even busier than ever … and there are those video games we had never dreamed would happen, and computers, books on CD, smartphones, gaming devices and tablets. But if you come to the library, I wish everyone everywhere would come to the library, you can still experience the wonder I felt as a child where there was a building full of books of all kinds and it was “the bookstore for everyone.” All of the changes in how information and connection are delivered are still embraced by the library, for free. Because it is still “the bookstore (gathering/information place) for everyone,” and it is free (unless you forget about the lesson to return what has been borrowed). I love libraries.