I’ve been in love with libraries since fourth grade, when a librarian from the Bathgate Avenue and Fordham Road Bronx branch of the NY Public Library came into our classroom and signed us all up for library cards. We could go any time, she explained, and take books home for free! Then she read us a story that we all loved and wanted to borrow and I was hooked. My friend Susan and I walked the half mile from our homes on Hughes Avenue several times a week, and came back with piles and piles of books.
Can you remember the books of your childhood? Mine included a series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, starting with Little House in the Big Woods, and ending with These Happy Golden Years. Little did I imagine that the characters would have another life, in the popular television series Little House on the Prairie. Another favorite series for me was about the friendship of two little girls called Betsy and Tacy, by Maud Hart Lovelace. Later a third child joined them, and the triumvirate, Betsy, Tacy, and Tib depicted incredibly joyous childhood friendships at the turn of the twentieth century. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, recounted life during the Civil War. I read through all of the Alcott books, some several times over, and began to realize that although customs change, human nature does not. A few years later, Susan discovered books geared toward older girls, books such as Boy Trouble and Class Ring, by Rosamond du Jardin. These books were about adolescence in the 1940’s and 50’s. Still a little girl in sixth grade, I read them too, and wondered about what high school would be like. Just a little while later, I discovered Jane Austen, who wrote about England in the early nineteenth centuries. I realized that pride and prejudice were timeless qualities, and I copied Austen shamelessly in plotting Ms. Murphy’s Makeover, a Bronx tale.
Libraries have changed a great deal since I was a child. Now the children’s room is filled with educational toys and computers, a fun place to take a toddler on a rainy day, or any day. Along with programs for kids, book discussions, technology help, and other programs abound. I’m especially grateful for an informal writing workshop I attend, as well as for the technology help I’ve received. But most of all there are the books, and the librarians, a resource beyond compare. One of the highlights of my life has been to enter a library and see my own novel on the shelf. Thank you to all of the librarians who helped make this possible.