Children reading, New York Public Library
It's that time of year, where, at most local libraries in the United States, librarians are climbing up ladders as rickety as the federal budgets that keep the air-conditioning going and the doors open. And above the circulation desk, they hang the motto of this summer's reading program: I Want You to Read As Hard As You Can. Then, they fold up the ladders, straighten their shoulders and the free bookmarks, and wait for the onslaught of children.
And so, kicking off the Summer Library Series, is humorist Owen Egerton, who grew up exploring the library in Friendswood, Texas. Enjoy!
In a Town With No Bookstores
by Owen Egerton
. . . I'd sneak a copy of some
bloody horror or erotic thriller
into a nook of the children's area
and wish to God I could read!
|Friendswood Public Library|
But sometimes I'd sneak a copy of some bloody horror or erotic thriller into a nook of the children's area and wish to God I could read! I'd imagine the stories, whisper plot lines to match the covers and wonder at the weight of the pages.
As years went by, I recall other hours spent with my bicycle parked outside browsing science books and old copies of National Geographic. In those days you could check out newspapers from around the country, too. Like the post office, this place seemed to be in conversation with parts of the world I only knew from maps. This one, clumsy building was the town's nerve link to Africa, Australia, Europe. But no one seemed to care. One thing I clearly remember. The library was never crowded.
For a middle-school project, I used the library like an eager post-grad degree candidate, passionately researching how to build a kite, making weak copies from the buzzing Xerox machine and feeling incredibly scholarly. That one project was a heady experience. I had walked in not knowing something and walked out with enough new knowledge to teach my 6th grade science class a hands-on-lesson on kites.
I don't recall any guides in the library, can't picture a helpful face recommending the perfect book or new subject. I'm sure they were there, but I mainly recall the massive amount of options--shelf after shelf after shelf of hardback, mysterious texts.
I went to library less as a teenage. Looking back, I'm surprised I didn't spend more hours there. At the time, I believed books were serious, quiet things. I believed the customary hush was not so others could read undisturbed, but so the books might sit undisturbed--like ancient, dead gods. I still believe books are serious--but they are also lusty little demons willing to yank, cut, kiss and steal. As a young man, I had yet to balance my reverence with irreverence, yet to learn that the contents of book can sing and scream.
We now live a block from a public library in Austin, Texas. Just a month ago, newly seven-years old, my daughter applied and received her first library card. I let her check out whatever books she wanted for the family. We left with a children's book on space travel, another on dinosaurs and also a collection of Thoreau's letters and Bukowski's poems. Brilliant.
Egerton is currently on his book-tour for The Book of Harold. Check out his schedule on owenegerton.com.
To find out if your local library has books by Owen Egerton, visit Worldcat.org.
Next week's library author:
poet, Matthew Brennan