Libraries change lives. They sure changed mine, and more than once.
For instance, back at the end of fourth grade I went to the downtown library. I saw Mrs. Johnson, the first librarian I had ever met (way back at the bookmobile, which was another life-changing experience). We got to talking, I don't remember what about, but I do remember that she gave me a book called "The Dialogues of Plato."
That might seem like an odd thing to give a 10-year-old. But there are at least two explanations.
First, I was an odd 10-year-old.
Second, Mrs. Johnson believed in the Great Books. "You can read?" she thought. "Then you should read about Socrates!"
She was right.
The first dialog I read posed a deceptively simple question: "What is wise?" Then followed the most amazing conversation. Everything the student said was questioned, and questioned again, and again.
Until then, I had no idea that thinking, that talking, could be so much fun.
The other kids in my class were interested in ... well, I'm not sure what they were interested in. TV? Sports, some of them. But I know what I was interested in.
The examined life.
Ah, summer, the season of lawn mowers and pollen. But there are compensations.
My daughter will be home from her first year at college overseas. My son will be able to start making claymation movies again, having blasted through his final weeks of infernal math homework.
For awhile, young people will bask in the heat and indolence of seasonal downtime. Then, of course, they'll get bored.
What to do?
I've been writing this weekly column about libraries for 17 years. My readers know what I think about libraries. (Hint: I like them. A lot.)
Over the years, I've met thousands of library patrons. In Douglas County, they're a remarkably literate bunch. By that I mean that they're not just readers. They're writers, too, whether that's a short note, a long email, a thoughtful letter to the editor, and even their own books.
They have library stories to tell, too. Here are just a few, sent to us recently.
Do any of you remember when you checked out a book in the "old days," i.e. the Sixties? They would take an actual photograph of your card and the removable library card pasted into the book. You would stand there at the checkout counter, and the librarian (complete with glasses and a bun) would step on a foot pedal, triggering the bright light photo and a neat 1960's mechanical noise, taking the picture, so as to trace you if you became overdue or worse.