I remember in grammar school being chased every day by bullies. But twice a week after school I found refuge in the Hicksville Public Library Bookmobile which was parked in front of the school after classes. The bullies never entered this domain sort of like the sanctuary offered in some cases by churches.
Here in the bookmobile my dreams became reality as the RV sized vehicle was filled with books for young people. Adventure, History, Literature. There was even an aroma of crammed in well read books, people and the coffee the librarians were drinking out of their thermoses.
We had a library in grammar school where once a week we would all gather to read aloud from Huckleberry Finn or learn how to use the Dewey Decimal System. In Junior High we had a multilevel library which I fondly recall sitting in while doing a term paper on the Broadway Plays of the Great Depression.
The Hicksville Library itself was a sprawling structure filled with aisles of books upstairs and down. I remember discovering great colorful books about the Civil War here. I even found a book once about running magazines a profession I wanted to go into soon after college.
Then there were the great libraries of the State University system. They were called stacks and they were huge. Too large to just browse you had to know what you were looking for with entire floors empty but for yourself and a few thousand books on science all organized, by the Dewey Decimal System.
I could not appreciate the library at my law school because so much legal research was at that time starting to be done online but still a few stalwarts would use the school library the old fashioned way even though every law book was now online in vast commercial databases.
Living in Brooklyn we had a great library in Brooklyn Heights where you could find books on many topics and browse shelves filled with fiction and nonfiction new releases and if needed order a rare book from the central Brooklyn library.
And of course anyone living or working in the city had a New York library card. Anyone anywhere is entitled to one. In fact I still carry this card although it’s been a few years since I visited the main branch which was during an exhibition which featured Jack Kerouac’s manuscript scroll.
I loved libraries so much that I created an organization called the New York Library League and was working with both the New York and Brooklyn libraries to help raise money for them. Unfortunately I was sidetracked from that project through no fault of my own. But the first thing I did when I arrived in Fishkill was offer to help raise money for that library.
They never got back to me about that but although it is a small library it is connected to every library in the mid-Hudson Valley region. If I order a book online I could have it that day if the Fishkill library has it or the next day if some other library has it. So far I was only unable to find one book in the system. Why I even found an audio device there that taught French.
I still use the library because of tough economic times and because I am running out of room in my house for purchased books and must limit my acquisitions. Using the library I have been able to read all the writings of a particular author with no cost to myself expanding my intellectual universe.
Why wax nostalgic for libraries? Because I am hoping that our Federal, State and Local governments do not start cutting funding to these precious institutions where young dreamers come to escape with a science fiction book or a person on hard times can come to use a computer to find a job in this great sanctuary we call the library.
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