Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Library Volunteer

The children's room of the Squirrel Hill Branch of the Pittsburgh Public Library had a tank of hamsters.

There were also bean-bag chairs upholstered in mustard corduroy and the whole place was furnished in indoor/outdoor carpet. The children's librarian was a paisley bell-bottom. This was the early '70s. "Upgrade" was not a word. Every book I took out was dusty and yet somehow also greasy. They were water-marked, liberally used, fingerprinted. On the book jacket flaps invariably some artistic soul had scribbled.

How I loved it all. It was funky library funk, evidence of people's ambitions, losses, hopes. When you took a book out a library it was obvious you were throwing your lot in with the main, kind of like being born, you were joining an experimental collective.

I recently started volunteering at my kids' elementary school library. My first thought on my first day: We've come a long way baby, this carpeting is clean. This place has none of the feeling of being at the bottom of an exhibit at the Pittsburgh Aqua Zoo.

If you love books as I love books, flagrantly, stupid-with-love-ed-ly, I highly recommend volunteering at your kid's library. The new picture-books will pass through your hands first and then into those of the next generation.