Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#howilibrary Mom and I discovered the world at the Tomah Public Library

Library Journal is encouraging us to share our library flashbacks and fetishes with the #howilibrary hashtag. The library was a huge part of my childhood, starting with the grand old Tomah Public Library on Superior Avenue in Tomah, Wisconsin. (It's probably not as enormous in reality as it is in my memory, but they have a nice website and seem to be going strong, which makes me happy.)

Starting as early as I can recall, Mom and I stopped by the library almost every day after dropping off my older siblings at school. The summer before I started kindergarten, I was dying to participate in the summer reading program with the "big kids," so Mom took me to the librarian's desk and had me demonstrate that I could read.

The librarian chose a book so she'd know I wasn't just reciting a book that had been read to me many times. (A challenge, because many, many books had been read to me many, many times.) I don't recall the book, but I remember the librarian being very impressed and my mom proudly telling the Avon lady and myself getting lost in a haze of blissful summer reading.

Of course, I had no idea back then what the library meant to Mom. Never really thought about it until after she passed away this spring, and Dad told me that my mom's first inkling that a library existed was a class trip in 8th grade. She thought it was the most amazing thing in the world. When she and Dad moved to Tomah, they were in their 20s, expecting kid #5 (me) and poor as church mice. Neither of them had finished high school, but they were both intelligent and creative, eager lifelong learners. I understand now that while I was wandering the stacks or curled up in a corner at the library, my young mom was working on her GED, preparing for college, and discovering a new world for herself.

Flash forward forty years. My sister bought a used hardcover of my first novel, Crazy for Trying, from Ebay. Inside the front cover was a faded blue ink stamp: "Property of Tomah Public Library." Mom and I both got a huge kick out of that.

So how do you library? Library Journal wants to know, and so do I! FB, blog, or tweet about it with the hashtag #howilibrary.

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