Friday, September 23, 2016

Libraries and the World

I'm been reading the wonderful stories my colleagues shared about the libraries that played such important roles in their childhoods and development as writers. I've been debating whether I would share my early library memories. But I think they're worth sharing.

I loved the public library in my hometown, Danville, Virginia. When I was a child and teenager, the library was housed in the Sutherlin Mansion on Main Street. That section of the street was known as "Millionaires' Row" and is now in the Historic Register. The Sutherlin Mansion was unique in the role it had played in American Civil War history. During his retreat from Richmond, Jefferson Davis stayed there. Danville is known as "the last capitol of the Confederacy." Today, the Sutherlin Mansion is the home of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History.The public library moved to a modern building up the hill from the courthouse.

I don't remember the first time I went to the old library in the Sutherlin Mansion. This is rather odd because during the Civil Rights movement, integration of the library became an issue. But I was young enough during that era not to be able to drive myself into town. We lived about five miles outside the city limits, in what was then called "country" (before the city expanded outward when the mall was built). There was no way for children to get into town unless adults took them. So I missed much of the discussion about the public library. I got my books from the school library.

I don't remember when I went to the public library and got my card. I do remember being a teenager and browsing through all of the books in the adult section. I remember discovering books that I loved. I checked The Day Must Dawn by Agnes Sligh Turnbull out every few months. And then there was Mary Stewart's My Brother Michael. And all the books with titles that intrigued about subjects that seemed fascinating. I love nonfiction as much as fiction.

What I remember about visiting the library was that the librarians sometimes looked at what I was checking out and offered smiling observations. What I remember is that they seemed pleased that I was leaving with my arms full of books.

What I remember is that a library that was of the time and place in which it existed became one of my "good places" where I could go and discover other worlds. 

No comments: