Thursday, August 13, 2015

2015 Summer Library Series: Walking to East Branch by Carol (Ryan) Pringle

Hello, hello! Welcome to the Summer Library Series, an annual weekly exhibit of wonderful essays in which professional writers reflect on their childhood in the library. This week's edition is a slight departure from the formula, as our author is not a professional writer, although three of her children are.  She is a dedicated reader of the series and was very pleased to contribute this reflection. I bring to you the origin of my love of the library, my mother.  Please enjoy her memories of the East Branch Library in Evansville, Indiana.
Walking to East Branch
Carol (Ryan) Pringle
The East Branch Library, Evansville, IN
From EVLP History
Opened in 1913, the year of my mother's birth, the East Branch of Evansville, Indiana system (now called East Branch of Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library) was the library of choice for our family, as it was within walking distance from our home 6 blocks away.  By the time I was old enough to read and walk to the library with Mother, my sister, and brother, it was 1945; Dad was finishing his World War II Army service, so wasn't home to walk with us.
The building itself was in an ideal location between Stanley Hall Elementary School and Bayard Park.  (After I was invited to write of my experiences, it occurred to me that there was no library in our elementary school.  Neither did our classrooms have novels and non-fiction books to read, unless the teacher read to us from a book she'd acquired. So, access to a nearby library was essential in broadening our world).  On the east side of the library, Bayard Park afforded us a place to slide, swing and teeter totter during the summers of our youth, as well as to hold special school activities, celebrating the end of school.
Carol as a child,
used with author's permission
As one of many Carnegie libraries, East Branch seemed a huge building in this young child's eyes.  More space was dedicated to adult books and reading materials than to children's, as the number of children's authors was less prolific than in today's world.  Even the books each of us owned were few in number, so our twice-a-month trips to exchange our books that were due (very important that we not have an overdue book) for new ones, were vital to our joy of reading.
It was an enforced rule to be QUIET in the library, and if we needed to speak to each other or to the librarian, it had to be in hushed tones.  Otherwise, "SHHHHH" was the most used word heard. I decided the librarian's job entailed keeping the room quiet, no matter how mean a look she maintained . . . oh yes, and stamping the book to indicate when it was due back.  I wouldn't have dared ask her a question about a book (or anything else) for fear of her shushing me.  On the other hand, years later, a friendly librarian was hired and it was like having a cheerful breeze floating through the room.  
Two images stand out in my memory of those young years--one was the stereoscopes that were set on a library table for anyone to look through at 3-D pictures.  The stereoscopes were somewhat like the modern View-Masters but were more cumbersome in their structure.  Still, it was fun to look at the scenes from this interesting non-toy.
Children using stereoscopes,
Cincinnati, OH public library
The second image is the experience of a Summer Reading Program circa 1949, in which the program's final activity, as a reward for having read and reported on a certain number of books (10?  20?), was a trip to Lincoln City, Indiana, where Abraham Lincoln once lived, as well as the location of his mother's (Nancy Hanks Lincoln's) grave.  The process of attaining this reward was interesting in itself, as the title of each book read was placed on a paper "log" and added to the building of a "cabin" there in the library.  It was no easy task for me to read and report to that strict librarian, regarding the number of books required, but the struggle brought great satisfaction in completing the program and receiving the reward!
By the time I was a Brownie Scout and then a Girl Scout, the basement of the library became the meeting place after school for our troop.  I clearly remember the "flying up" ceremony from Brownie to Girl Scout held there and also recall one of our meeting in which we performed "Snow White," my role being that of the Mirror.  How meaningful that role still is in that "reflecting" is one of the main things I continue to do in my daily thoughts.
Having pondered these memories, I now realize what a dear part of my childhood the East Branch Library was, from the feeling of family togetherness in walking to get there, to the sharing of the experience of reading, to the disciplines of quietness and being prompt in returning what we'd borrowed, to the sense of community in knowing others shared this space.  Although libraries have dramatically changed in their services, including computers and other ways of accessing books around the state and country, they continue to be a vital part of my life in the community in which I now live.
Carol (Ryan) Pringle grew up on Linwood Avenue in Evansville, Indiana and now lives in Casey, Illinois. She has her bachelor's and master's degrees in elementary education from Indiana State University and is about to begin her last year of educating children before retiring next spring at age 76. She is an active member of the Martinsville, IL Methodist church, enjoys singing, and walks her dog three times a day.  She is also a grandmother of five. You can read past interviews I've done with her: "Christmas Began at 1104 South Linwood" and "The Woman Who Helped Author Me."
If this is your first time travelling with the Summer Library Series, you can catch up by visiting all the places we've been this season: Philadelphia, Washington, Switzerland, Iowa, Texas, and Spokane. Past seasons of the series are housed here. The series will continue through August, so please check back next Thursday, and share with friends and strangers until then.