It Started With A Puppet Show: On Library Cards And My Life

It all started with puppets. Yes, puppets. I am creeped out by clowns and dolls, but not puppets. When I was in the third grade my parents took my sisters and I to go see a puppet production of Beauty And The Beast at the library. At the end of the show was a brief spiel on library cards. I knew I HAD to get one, and so my parents promised me I could get one the very next day, because they are so on-board with the word free. I can remember the rush of anticipation, but also gravity as I signed my name – with newly learned cursive on the white 4 County Library system card. Gravity because now I had the responsibility of taking books back on time so as to not incur an overdue fee.

Then

I will straight up say without libraries I would not be the reader that I am today. I do not come from money at all. I was the kid growing up who wore hand-me-downs and clothes from Salvation Army. It’s really hard for me to admit that, since I’ve changed so much from then, economically, and well, it’s hard to say Hi I come from poverty or hi I lived at the poverty line. My parents didn’t have the money to purchase a new book every time I wanted one.  Enter libraries. Through the library, I was able to keep up with an expensive reading habit. Sidebar: This is also why I gladly pay overdue fines now without complaining – it’s a small way to give back even though having late books is lame.

My mom would take my sisters and I once a week. She would head on over to the romance racks (they rotated), and we would go to the children’s section. Through the library I became acquainted with Phylis Reynolds Naylor and Shiloh, Betsey Byars, Brian Jacques and the mice of Redwall, Beverly Cleary and Ramona, Cynthia Voight and the Tillermans, Ann M. Martin and her Babysitters Club, Francine Pascal and Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. I never went to Disneyworld as a kid or really anywhere for vacation but I experienced a whole new world every night thanks to the library.

now

Now

I learned how to use the internet because of the library. I remember going to the library after school got out, in my pre-teen years, and browsing the internet with friends from school. We spent a lot of time on Sailor Moon websites, and would eventually put on a short play as Sailor Moon characters to promote the manga section of the library (I give back from time to time).

The library was also how I obtained some of my first for-keeps books. They have this massive sale several times a year where you can buy a bag of books

for a dollar. I remember getting excited over the Bag Of Books Saturdays. My mom would give each of us kids a dollar, and we would find a huge bag and obviously stuff it to the brim. I mean, my parents knew books were important, they just didn’t have the means. When opportunities like those sales came knocking, you open the door.

I would hate to see what my life would be like without the library. Would I have ended up knocked up? Would I have gone onto college? Would I have had the motivation to take harder classes? I can’t say for sure, but I know I absolutely would not be the woman I am today without a simple puppet show at the library.

library card

My Library Card Today

What about you? What impact has the library had on your life? Do you remember getting your first library card?

 

About April (Books&Wine)

April is 28 years old and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. In her free time she can be found reading, working out, or eating junk food. She often wears her sunglasses at night.

Comments

  1. I love this post so much. I have a very good library post maybeI should share too and OMG THE DENIM LOVE!

  2. I love this post. I became a reader because of the library too. We didn’t have a lot of money and my dad hates books. (Never seen him read one.) Growing up I lived two houses away from the library so I could go there whenever I wanted. I still go every week, joined the bookclub they have and love their book sales.
    I think you’ve started a trend. I want to post about libraries now!!

  3. I lived one block from the library growing up and my parents knew it was my happy place. I probably ended up in the library 3 or 4 times a week in the summer. I’m so grateful I lived that close because it gave me access to unlimited shelves of books. I can’t imagine growing up without that.
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  4. I LOVE your post, April! I feel so much the same way. My dad was in the military while I was growing up so I moved a lot, but my mom always made sure one of the first things we did when we got to a new place was take my little brother & I to get library cards. The public library was always my real home no matter where we were. I applied to law school this past fall and I actually wrote my personal statement on this very topic! All about how books & my library card helped make me the person I am today. I have a big personal collection now, but I still make sure to go & get my library card each time I move to a new city.

    • THat’s wonderful how you get a library card each time you move, because that’s instilled in you. I imagine that a library does feel like home to those of us bookworms.

      Also, very awesome about the personal statement. I bet it was fabulous.

  5. We moved a couple times when I was growing up, and one of the major selling point my parents made to me was that we would be within bike riding distance of a library after our first move. I remember biking there every week and filling my backpack up with books. It was pretty sweet.
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    • We only moved one street over when growing up, so I can’t imagine what that’s like. I live across town from the library so we just went on the weekends. It must have been awesome to be so close to the library.

  6. Aw, thanks for sharing! The library has been a huge part of my life, too. Both my parents worked full-time, so I wasn’t able to attend any of the puppet shows or activities, but they did take me every weekend to get books. I’d always max out the card! When I had a period as a child where I was very ill, books from the library always kept me occupied.

    When I was in sixth grade, I started volunteering there (I did the puppet show thing for a while, haha), and eventually became an intern. Six years later, it’s my last year volunteering (going off to college in the fall). Sadface. But my local library will always be special to me. I’ve met and worked with so many great people there. =)
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  7. Lovely post! If we have public libraries here, I’m sure they would’ve been a huge part of my life too. I have fond memories of my grade school library, where I read all of the fiction books available. We didn’t have much when I was younger too. I wore my cousin’s hand-me-downs from the States. They would send their clothes in big boxes together with their old Sweet Valley and Babysitters Club books. I was so thankful for those books because they kept me occupied during summer vacations. Nowadays, I’m just grateful that I have a decent job and can afford to pay for the books that I want.
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    • Sucks that you didn’t have public libraries there. Also, how awesome that your cousins would send you Sweet Valley and BSC, those books were the backbones of my childhood.

      And yay for working!

  8. I got my library card on my 6th birthday. You had to be 6 to get a library card. When I was 5, I was an avid reader but couldn’t participate in the summer reading program because I was too young, so my mom made one up for me (I’d read a book and report to her on it and she kept track of my books) – I still used the library of course, just had to have my mom check books out for me. I loved the library so much as a kid, that I worked there in high school (awesome first job). And now I work in libraries again (after a 12 year hiatus) and neither of the two that I work for have an age minimum for library cards.
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    • Can I just say your mom is awesome.

      Also, I wish I worked in the library while younger.

      Also, I do think the minimum age thing is kind of stupid. I feel like if you are in school you should be allowed to get one.

  9. This post is incredibly moving and written beautifully. As a child my visits were in phases and the no routine means I forget, but I know that I discovered some great books at the library and that in many cases those books were the ones that helped me discover books in later life. I remember feeling very grown up borrowing my first Judy Blume. I got my first card quite late, about 10 years old. Beforehand I’d used my mums, I think she found it easier that way.

  10. The library and the magic of the library card was epic for me first getting a job in bookstores then eventually getting my MLS. It was my elementary school library and its little wall niche of mysteries filled with Nancy Drew titles that I remember best. My kids have library cards for home and their summer visiting of grandparents, and they are definitely worn with use! Thanks for sharing and remembering.

  11. Hi April and thanks for this great post that brought back so many memories of my first library card!
    It amazes me how many people don’t really utilize their local libraries. As someone, like you, who wouldn’t be the reader I am today if it were not for my library – I just can’t fathom it.
    Great Post!
    ~J
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  12. I just want to say that this post is great. I loved the library as a little girl too. My mom would take my twin sister and I all the time and I found so many wonderful books through the library.
    I’m a school librarian now and I’m sure all those trips I made as a child influenced that. I love finding new books for my students to read and enjoy. Some of the students I have are like you were and the library is the only way they can get books to read. When they request something I do my best to get it for them.
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    • I didn’t know you were a twin!

      Yeah, WV is a poor state right? I’m glad that you are so helpful for your students. You really are making a huge difference in their lives, I bet.

  13. Hi, I’m a new subscriber! What a great post. I heart my library. I grew up going to the library and I’m so grateful I have an awesome one near my house now. My id number is memorized and I’m there at least once a week! I brag about library scores (once I got Shiver, Before I Fall, VA-Spirit Bound, and Finnikin of the Rock in ONE trip). Love libraries, mine has saved me a ton of money, and I feel good about reusing books and only buying ones I love (yes, I’m a tree-hugger). 🙂

    • Thanks for subscribing, Jen!

      That’s freakin awesome how you have your ID number memorized.

      Also, library hauls are the best, especially when they put out the newer books.

      And I love saving money too!

  14. What a fantastic post. Seriously. Your story reminds me a lot of mine. When I was young my family was pretty broke so we almost never got our own books. We were lucky if we got the occasional book from a yard sale. Reading was everything to me and I loved the library! I still have all my library cards from all the various places we lived when I was growing up. I can remember in 3rd grade my mom would drop me off at school in the morning with my bike on nice days so I could ride over to the library when I got out. I would spend hours there just flipping through all of the books. I don’t think that a lot of people realize how important libraries are to kids. I make sure to take my nieces and nephew any chance that I get. Luckily one of them loves books as much as I do!
    Sorry for rambling, but I really appreciate this post. Libraries are way important and I just wish more people realized it!
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    • It’s okay to ramble. I love long comments and hearing about other people with similar stories. It’s completely heartening to hear how libraries having impacted other people’s lives and how they help you overcome what might be an at risk situation.

      I too wish more people realized how important libraries are and would stop cutting funding to them.

  15. Getting a library card is one of the very first things I do when I move to a new area. It’s a huge priority to me!
    Libraries taught me to respect my things. I was really hard on toys and clothes as a kid. When I was 8/9 ish, we lived right around the corner from the library. I could see it from my house. So, my mom would let me walk there by myself (I felt SO grown up!) and I was allowed to check out as many books as I could carry IF I kept track of them all, returned them on time, & didn’t lose or damage anything. Every librarian knew me by name & book preference (generally the BSC, but I mixed it up w/ some R.L. Stine & Willo Davis Roberts every now and again) and I didn’t want to lose that. I never lost a single book.
    I love, love, LOVED this post April. It was phenomenal! Loved it.

  16. Canadian Tuxedo Dresses FTW!
    I can’t remember getting a library card but only because my parents got it for me when I was so young. I know a few adults that don’t have library cards and it sticks me as incredibly strange.
    My husband grew up in a very poor family and much of his childhood was spent hanging at the library. Public funding to our libraries is SO important for that very reason.
    BTW – When I was in grade 7 my friends and I put on a Sailor Moon show for the younger kids at our elementary school…. I was Sailor Venus. I… I thought I was the only one…
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  17. What a great post! It’s stuff like this that makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing by going into library science. Thank you for this.
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  18. I had a different love affair with libraries growing up. I know I went to the public library but I spent a lot of time at the school library. My parents had some money and the Scholastic flyer became my birthday/Christmas every time one was sent home.
    The library I remember most was High School. I still read the authors I was introduced to then.
    Many thanks to the Lava Hot Springs library…they let me check out three books on the strength of my signature (I was on vacation)
    I have three “library card” memories….
    1) The extended family has a set vacation time/place and I got a library card from the area.
    2) I’ve been married for 25 year and still have the library card I got when I changed my name. They don’t offer the card anymore and the workers are surprised to see it.
    3) I went ALOT with my kids when they were little and always checked out their books for them. Daughter was fine with that but Son wanted his own card. The librarian was so nice…asked if he could write his name yet (no) and told him to come back as soon as he could.
    He did. He’s 21 now and still has, and uses, a library card with the “signature” of a 5-year-old. Sister was not to be outdone and got her own card too.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!
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