Once the library was where I went for story hour, sitting in a semi-circle around the librarian, listening enthralled as books were read to us in sing-songy, “everything-is-aaaaahhhhmazing” tones, every sentence curled like a springy ringlet. When I could read on my own, it became a weekly stop for the summer reading program, all the books I’d finished logged in careful large print, each awaiting a star sticker at the end of its row. Later, as a “Volun-teen,” I spent part of the summer in the air conditioned glory of the basement children’s department, shelving books, learning the Dewey decimal system and handing out gold star stickers.
Then, like an old toy left behind, I lost touch with the library as a place of reading pleasure. College will do that to you. The library became a place to study, look up information in the Congressional Record, search articles on microfiche, Xerox stuff and steal kisses in the stacks. You go there when you have to, and for several years, I bought books here and there, without giving the library, college or otherwise, another thought.
Although an overflowing bookshelf has always seemed to me the mark of a rich life, at some point I had to draw a line. $20 or $30 a pop adds up fast. For books, I had no rule that paralleled my old, “If it has 3 songs I like, I’ll buy that album.” So I returned to the library.
Our local library branch is one of those relatively new ‘burb constructions – it looks big on the outside but houses relatively few books. Walk down the 641 aisle (see, that Dewey decimal system comes in handy) in my branch and you’d have little hope. The cooking shelves seem to be littered with former Food Network faces, but perhaps that says something about our area. The saving grace is that the circulation system in our library system works amazingly well, far better than I ever remember it working when I was a kid. I secretly hope that by requesting so many cookbooks, the library will take notice that our location could do with more books not directly linked to TV shows.
Sure, for bestselling fiction, there can still be crazy long hold lists, but for cookbooks, the library has been a surprisingly rich and current resource. On my last trip, my holds were Roy Choi’s L.A. Son, The Great American Chocolate Chip Cookie Book, and a couple of fiction titles. Flour Water Salt Yeastand Good to the Grain were already sitting on the table at home. The King County Library has delivered everything from Southern Vegetarian to the original Ottolenghi Cookbookto the Robicelli’s cupcake book. There’s hardly a title I’ve looked for that they haven’t had. Even most of the current Piglet selections on Food 52 are available in the system.
The library is aaaaaahhhhmazing again.