Okay, I admit.  I’m a procrastinator!  It’s National Library Week and I’m three days late to the celebration.  Cut me some slack…I’ve been busy!

Is there anything better in this whole world than a library?  It doesn’t seem to matter whether they’re big or small, libraries provide an invaluable service to the community.  I’ve used libraries for finding the best new reads; to do research for papers; to send a quick e-mail on their computers in a pinch (pre-smart phone); and even just to  hang out and hide from the rest of the world.  Where else can you do all of that without paying a dime?

Okay…that’s not true.  As a habitual procrastinator, I’m a major contributor to my local library’s coffers.  It’s just not possible for me to return a book on time.  Humph!

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El Reno Carnegie Library – El Reno, OK

I remember my library growing up — the Carnegie Library in El Reno, Oklahoma.  Housed in a gorgeous building on a side-street in the heart of downtown El Reno, this beautiful building was graced with four gorgeous columns in the front.  It reminded me of a southern plantation home.

Entering the building, I was greeted with the librarian’s desk; always staffed by Mrs. Diane Costin. I loved that lady!  I remember in college waiting until the last minute to write a huge research paper on schizophrenia.  My first college writing course and I’d waited until the last minute to do the research or begin writing the paper.  I showed up to the library that morning, looking stressed and frazzled, to find Mrs. Costin with a pleasant and calming smile on her face.  I told her what I needed and she showed me where to find the materials.  Within moments, I’d taken hostage a large table and dumped about 27 books and 44 magazines on this table.  Research material.  Before I left (seven hours later), Mrs. Costin had slowly accumulated another 327 magazine articles and 14 books to aid my search.  Every time I turned around, she place another item on my table to help me.  She never once looked at all of those materials and asked, “And who do you think’s gonna put those items away, young lady?” She also never chastised me for waiting until the last minute.  She could’ve.  El Reno is a small town and lives by the credo that “it takes a village” to raise a child.  My paper was due the next morning at 7:30 a.m.  I use the word “procrastination” in the most literal sense of the word.

Impossible as it is to believe, I made an A on that paper.  Not only that, my English Comp professor held me after and wanted to discuss the stellar job I’d done with the writing and research!  Ack!  I can only say that I have the wonderful Mrs. Costin to thank for both getting the paper done on time AND for the outstanding research articles she helped me find.  The “stellar” writing was a fluke.

1835590Besides that one research paper, I found my love of reading at the library and, better yet, local authors!  At 16, I was a devoted historical romance reader and loved anything by Connie Federson (a.k.a Carol Finch, Gina Robbins, Connie Drake, Debra Falcon), who was an author in the town closest to us.  I met her once and it was then I fell in love with writers.  Mrs. Fedderson was so kind to that 16 year old me.  I asked her why she used so many pen names, and she told me it was because her publisher would only allow her to write one novel every 6 months under each name, so she made up several to publish more frequently!  Gotta love a woman who knows how to find a way over that brick wall!

Summer was my reading time.  Once each week I’d head to the library and pick out as many books as I could find; usually at least twenty.  I’d bring them home, scurry up to my room, lock the door and hibernate there until I’d read every book cover-to-cover…usually in about six or seven days.  I always lost weight during those summers.  From the moment I opened my eyes in the morning, until the second I closed them at night, I had a book in front of me; compliments of the El Reno Public Library.  There was no time for food or playing with other children.  I had serious reading to do!  It was my job to read those books and get them back to the library quickly so someone else could check them out.

My favorite thing about the library was “forbidden” reading.  Not that my parents ever forbid anything I wanted to read, but there were just some things I didn’t want my parents to know I was reading.  I could find those books at the library.  I didn’t always check them out and take them home; Mrs. Costin knew my parents, after all!  But if I wanted it, I knew it was at the library.

I’ve wondered what the future holds for the traditional library.  So many publishers are leaving print behind and going straight to e-readers.  While I love this evolution, I’m also terrified to lose the resources provided at our library.  Nothing can replace the ability to get the answer to every question from the always-helpful librarian.  If they don’t have the answer, they’ll do their best to find it.  Google just isn’t going to cut it!  It takes a person with a creative mind to come up with the right search terms to find an answer.

In honor of National Library Week, I want to say a HUGE thank you to the many librarians I’ve known over the years.  Thank you to Mrs. Diane Costin, who has left this earth but not our hearts.  Thank you to the librarians at the two libraries I frequent most often.  You people (not ladies, there are men librarians too!) are the best of the best.

In celebration of National Library Week, I think I’ll head to my local library and pick up a copy of one of those old books I once held so dear.  Um…hmmm…on second thought, maybe I’ll just remember it fondly.  I currently have a block on my account until I can come up with the final $17 to pay off my overdue fees.  Humph!

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