Sunday, September 25, 2011

A New York Public Library Card!

"The library was a little old shabby place.  Francie thought it was beautiful.  The feeling she had about it was as good as the feeling she had about church.  She pushed open the door and went in.  She liked the combined smell of worn leather bindings, library paste and freshly inked stamping pads better than she liked the smell of burning incense at high mass."
--A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

When I walked in the front door of my "growing-up library" in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, I felt much the same as Francie. There was nothing shabby about it, with it's polished hardwood floors, matching paneled walls and sparkling floor-to ceiling windows, but it was the feel. . . the feel of the place that remains with me almost 50 years later. There was a reverence about it, a calmness and respect, something reassuring like sitting beside my grandmother in "our" pew on Sunday mornings.

I wasn't the reader at 11 that Francie was.  "She had been reading a book a day for a long time now and she was still in the B's."  For me, the joy was more in the looking, examining the covers, thumbing through the pages -- feeling the books in my hands.  Should I pick the one with the palomino horse looking ever-so grand, the best friends walking arm in arm, or another Nancy Drew, the one that sounded particularly scary?  And I loved to check-out, putting that carefully chosen book on the librarian's desk, handing her my library card!  It was light blue, the corners wrinkled and worn, with my name at the bottom, written in perfect fifth-grade cursive.

From then until now, one of the first things I do when we move to a new (English-speaking) place, is get a library card. But in New York City, with 43 neighborhood branches in Manhattan alone, where should  I go?  The obvious choice is the New Amsterdam branch, just 2 blocks from our apartment, but I want an adventure; I want to go to the BIG, main, flagship library, the one with the lions guarding the entrance.  So, undaunted by drizzle, I take the #4 Express to 42nd street, walk 2 blocks to 5th, and there it is.  What would Francie think?

White marble, grand staircases,  gold-lettered inscriptions on the walls, candelabras highlighting names of wealthy benefactors. Nothing shabby here.

With application and ID in hand, I climb the two flights to room 315, the main reading room of the Research Library, where the library card application desk is located. The magnificence of a museum greets me, with muraled art covering the door ways and ceiling.
(photo by Wikipedia)
A simple sign, "Apply for a Library Card Here," directs me to a row of arched, wood-framed windows, which looked like they have been transported from a fancy 1920s bank lobby.

The "teller" (aka librarian) enters my information into the computer, checks my ID, then presents me with a shiny, blue NY Public Library card!

Of course, I have to use it today, to experience the joy of feeling a borrowed book in my hands, one that has been read by others, and is waiting patiently on the shelf to visit my home.  Since the main library is for research rather than lending (except the children's section), I walk across the street to the Mid-Manhattan branch, check the catalog and find what I'm looking for, thankfully, with "available" by the title.
Proudly handing the librarian my card, the book is mine, until October 14.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  My third time to read it.  Francie and I will, again, spend hours together, "at peace with the world and happy as only a little girl can be with a fine book and a little bowl of candy. . ."

What is your library story?  Please share it for others to enjoy.


  1. today we went to the librery. I took m beabys in the strollr. I took albrt and mous and medved. I love the librery bekus it is my favrit. we chek out lots of books. I love to read! aftr we played on the playgrand and on my tir swing.

    **Be sure you go see Mommy's pictures of me from today here.

  2. Miss Twylla, that last comment is from Lexi. And, the pictures are up on my blog. "Mouse" is, indeed, THE mouse that you gave her. kc

  3. Hi Lexi,
    Thank you so much for writing me a note! I'm glad you went to the library and took mouse with you. I like to check out books, too. I wonder if you get dizzy on your tire swing. :-) It's fun for me to see pictures of you!


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