When I was in elementary school, from book reports to geography projects, the tried-and-true resource for all assignments was the local Toronto Public Library branch.
It wasn’t all about school, though. My weekly trips to the library allowed me to indulge my love of reading. One particular weekend, when I was seven years old, I approached the checkout desk with five children’s novels in hand.
My mom held up her hands, saying, “Whoa, Nadine! That’s too many books. You won’t be able to read them all in three weeks. Put two books back.”
I protested, “I’ll read them all! I will, I will!” She sighed and relented.
I stayed true to my promise. In fact, by the following Sunday I had already read all five books and was begging my parents to take me back to the library for more.
Over time, my trips to the library became less frequent. When I graduated from high school, I had not stepped foot in a public library in nearly four years. I still read fervently, but all the books I needed were in the school library or were purchased from the bookstore. When I went to university, the libraries on campus seemed more than adequate. I stopped being a public library patron and a part of my identity as a bookworm went into hibernation.
This year, I decided to wake it up. After over a decade of absence, I received a new library card and began borrowing books again.
When I first stepped foot in the Lillian H. Smith Library (the TPL branch nearest to the TEC office), the atmosphere was just as I had remembered it: the well-stocked shelves, the plastic-covered hardbacks, and the people—patrons of all ages reading quietly or perusing the stacks, and the friendly librarians. As I took everything in, it felt like visiting an old friend.
As I made my way to the adult fiction stacks, I glanced into the children’s section. Several youngsters were sitting on the carpeted floor, reading hardbound books with brightly coloured covers. One of them, a girl no older than five years old, was reading The Hungry Caterpillar with her mother. That made me smile.
I left the library that afternoon with a guilty pleasure in hand: a hardcover edition of Stephen King’s Under the Dome. Three weeks later, I took home Michael Ondaatje’s Divisadero. Today, I’m reading a well-worn copy of Alice Munro’s short story collection The View from Castle Rock.
What will I read next? I have no idea, but that’s one of the many great things about the public library: you never know what you’ll discover while browsing through those shelves.