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Missing Libraries, Past and Present

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

One of my favorite authors, Rita Mae Brown, once said, "When I got my library card, that’s when my life began." My world most definitely opened up the day I got mine!

The library of my childhood was centrally located in the small town I grew up in, Columbiaville. There are around 800 villagers in my hometown, which is five blocks long and four blocks wide. Columbiaville sits along the Holloway Reservoir, a 2,000-acre recreational lake popular for boating and fishing. Farm and woods encase the other two sides of the town, so there was never any end to exploring nature. Exploring and reading occupied much of my time.

Our library was in the old train station - pictured above. There was something comforting walking inside that that arched vestibule. It felt like coming home. The library was small and cozy and it had that wonderful, slightly musty smell of old books and buildings that have their own stories to tell. Shafts of light strewn in through the many windows. I felt like there was no end to the number of books that building contained.

I looked forward to our weekly visit to the train station library, where I could find new stories to fill my mind. I’d read them, over and over, studying the pictures as if they could pop right off the page. For those hours, I was someplace completely different – climbing a beanstalk to find a giant sleeping in his castle or walking through a rainstorm of spaghetti in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Those were two of my favorites. I also loved all of the stories by Laura Ingles Wilde and later "graduated" to Judy Blume. My favorite part of reading and writing is getting lost in the character’s lives.

One of the first things I do whenever I move is find the nearest library. Sometimes, I’ll make a day out of it and drive to several local libraries to compare. In Williamston, where I moved a few years after getting married, they had a tiny library with an incredible classical section. There, I discovered a love of African American literature and devoured Black Boy, Native Son, and so many more. When we moved to the Detroit suburbs, I had access to several libraries within a 10-mile radius. My favorite was in Plymouth, especially after my daughter was born. They had a magical children’s area with a dizzying array of puzzles, books and a puppet show area. We spent hours there every week.

Now in Ann Arbor, my local library is a walk away. At first, the Westgate Library was a small cubby-hole located in a strip mall. I didn’t mind. In fact, it reminded me of my first library in the train station. A new library was built in its place a few years back, complete with a fireplace and café. We are very lucky. I know the first place I'll visit when we get through this pandemic!

What are some of your favorite memories of libraries or childhood books? I’d love to hear about them. Share a photo if you can.

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