Thursday, July 12, 2007

card catalogs

The place I grew up in had a gorgeous library. It was an old Victorian building*, with all sorts of nooks and funny little rooms - most of the adult non-fiction was in a loft where you could spy down on people peaceably reading the paper and think up suitably thrilling stories about them - and my favorite room was one that not many people knew about.


This picture was taken in 1963 - by the time I started exploring there was an (ugly) modern addition built to one side, which became the children's section and the main entrance.


My secret room (technically the Michigan History room, whatever) was accessible from the main adult fiction area by a rickety set of narrow steps leading up to a plain white door. Once inside, there was a deep old green leather sofa, an ornate desk, and an old telescope. The walls were lined in books about the state's history, and it smelled like old pages and deep exciting things about to happen. There were a set of high windows that led outside, facing into giant trees, so the sunlight was filtered (even in the broad heat of summer) into soft green light. I would take my books, creep up the old stairs (Because what would I do if the librarians stopped me?) and quickly dive in, shutting the door. Once in, I could sprawl luxuriously on the couch and read uninterrupted for hours, high above everyones heads. If I needed a break, I could people-watch out the great bank of windows facing into the library, all without leaving my cushy spot. Doing homework up there was terrific - quiet, undisturbed, and all the reference materials I could ever want, all within arms reach. The desk had a wonderful old swivel wood chair that kept one sitting straight and one of those brass accountant lamps, whose glimmering pool of light made me feel grown-up and busy and productive.

I fell asleep up there one hot afternoon and woke only ten minutes before closing time. I'm sure noone would have found me, and I'd have spent the night with my books. Even though there was a ghost in the women's toilet**, I would have loved to have done that. Imagine! The whole night to find new books, new authors....

I was thinking of this today at the library*** while checking out. The librarian mentioned that they've had a few instances of the alarm going off at night, attributing it to books piled up falling over.

Either that, or that ghost has followed me. Maybe she's looking for that comfy couch.



*It was an Andrew Carnegie Library, although I'm not sure anyone but Sarah Louise will be interested in that!
**Reportedly you see her in the mirror while you're washing your hands. She's nicely dressed and is pinching her cheeks to make them redder and smiles at you before fading away.
***The library here, which is in another lovely old building (it was a school) and deserves it's own post.

5 comments:

meggie said...

What a lovely post! It made me think of a Library I knew once. NOt as well as you, & I am sure it was not as nice, but the smell of the books was just wonderful.

Stomper Girl said...

A secret room in a library. How magnificent.

Dawn said...

OK, so that was one of my favorite posts. I am in school to become a librarian and I secretly wish to live in a library...I wish I had an old beautiful library like that in my history. Such a good story!

Molly said...

If I can't die at home in my own bed, I 'd like to die in a library, preferably curled up on a comfy couch with an enthralling book....

Suse said...

Oh wow, you're just fabulous you know.

Great post.