My Happy Summer Place

 Go ahead and laugh; have a good go.  This is my happy summer place; and I don't care if you know.

My affinity for the library is an adult phenomenon. I've always been a voracious reader, but the library in the town in which I was raised was staid and sanitized. I would go there to work on group projects, which as we all know is code for make out with my boyfriend and generally goof off. No work got done in the library because, let's face it, every other teenager had the same agenda. Sure, it was clean and relatively well stocked. But whatever, man. Somehow I got through high school without so much as pulling a card from the card catalog both here and in my school's library.  
 
By the time I did serious research in college, electronic resources were the norm, so I had little use for physical library facilities. I don't like to study in a library because it's too quiet, there are generally no snacks available and I can't work in my pajamas (or, it's not socially acceptable to wear my pajamas). Case in point, I wrote my Ph.D dissertation almost solely at my local coffeehouse, Mugby Junction, last summer. No one bothered me, they kept me caffeinated with a steady stream of iced tea and generally looked the other way when my outfit was somewhat in the vicinity of sleepwear. 
 
Now, I'm co-authoring a book. I've regularly haunted the city library for information in order to round out chapters in the book. This has required some serious library time in which I (a) do not wear pajamas and (b) always bring my own Mugby iced tea with which to sustain my hunt. 
 
Today, I realized something wonderful. As I sat among the stacks on the second floor, encapsulated by towering shelves and smelling of faintly damp paper, I smiled. This was my happy place. A teenage boy was dutifully hunting for a specific book with two others in hand. A mom and several children were respectfully traipsing between second and third floors searching for reading material.  I overheard a library assistant helping an older gentleman read the fine print on a worn dust jacket. Last week a twenty-something gentleman thanked a different librarian for help on his resume. 
 
There are drawbacks, however. Last week I fought the urge to move when my gag reflex was repeatedly engaged by an older gentleman essentially hacking up a lung near the reference desk. His repeated coughing, resulting in the dislodging of something moist and vile and globular, was background noise for a good two hours. On that same occasion, I decided I needed one more trip through the biography section. Juggling a surprisingly-large collection of books in my arms, I made an immediate left and flopped my collection of biographies onto a radiator in front of a window in a pleasant reading area with two chairs and a little table. It was idyllic... and then the smell. Hello, gag reflex. Nice to see you again. The radiator, for there was no one else in the area, smelled like an unwashed person. Do they make deodorant for radiators? I had to wash my hair and change my clothes when I got home shortly thereafter. 
 
Today, I had to relocate from my chosen table in the not-too-dark/not-too-light area outside of the Art Room because the lady sitting in the next chair had a peculiar vice (I was there first). She would periodically make a sucking fssst sound between her teeth and upper lip while she was reading. I timed it - every 22 to 27 seconds. When I'm timing verbal tics, it's time to move. Upon my relocation, the reference librarian duo decided to chat rather loudly - not at all in librarian voices - about a variety of topics, replete with full-throated laughter and elevated voice pitch.  
 
That's how I ended up among the stacks on the second floor, crouching in an awkward position while balancing a thick book on one knee and a notepad on the other. At this vantage point, equal to a child's stature, the library was magical. I remembered why I love the second and third floors. Because of the actual floors. They are glass. The iron book stacks and accompanying wood shelving extend through each floor, the glass panes custom fit around the stacks. I remember the day I realized what I was looking at: a city that loved its library; craftsmanship on display; an appreciation of history. On this day, four years ago, I fell in love with the Winona Public Library. 
 
 
 
 
One of the stairwells between the second and third floors is quite narrow.  

Thank you for not investing in self storing shelving, temperature controlled by automatic thermostat to avoid mold growth. Thank you for keeping the original architecture of the building intact, even though the main entrance is on the side and the front is blocked from the inside. It's still beautiful. I really want to see what's in side the dome atop the roof someday. 

 
 
Thank you for investing in interesting programming for our children each summer, your children's librarians always patient and ready with a book suggestion. Thank you for making a little book nook in an empty closet for children to read on pillows and bean bags. Speaking of children...

 

The two places that pack in the kids are (a) the library and (b) the aquatic center. Aquatic center for obvious reasons, but the library for less obvious. 
 
I thought our children didn't read actual books anymore? 
 
Oh wait, evidently they do. 
 

Dr. Jana Craft is a Christian, wife, mother, business professor, fake biker and terrible cook who writes about the struggle to balance these identities and the joy derived from them all. She writes daily on Holding True @ janacraft.blogspot.com

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