We had a big night yesterday. The weather forecast was quite questionable, with ice storms blowing in from the Northwest. I had been meaning for some time to take Harrisen to the public library and give him the grand tour, ever since he asked me one day, "What is a library?"
Bad mommy. Bad mommy.
I thought with an impending snow day to keep us cooped up in the house, some new books and kid videos would be just the thing to weather the storm.
We walked into the building and Harrisen marched right up to the big granite counter. Totally un-coached, this was the conversation:
H: Hello. I'm Harrisen. What's your name?
M: I'm Melly. How can I help you?
H: Well, I need to check out a library book.
M: Do you have a library card?
H: Hmmm...No, I don't.
M: Well, you have to have a library card to check out a book.
H: O.K. I need a library card.
M: Good. We'll get you one right now.
I filled out the paperwork, and Melly the librarian began the process of bar-coding and computer-entering that eventually resulted in a silver plastic credit-card with a 20 item limit and zero percent interest.
I couldn't help but think back to my first library card, which was issued at the Gilliam Branch Library, which, at the time, was one room in the building that served as the fire station, mayor's office, and library, as well as an impromptu clogging studio two nights a week. The library card itself was manila cardstock with my name typed on it. It had some sort of metal plate on it that was used to make an imprint. I remember having to sign the little card in the back of each book and having the librarian rubber stamp the due date with one of those adjustable date stamps to put in the front pocket. The front pocket is still the same, but it now gets stuffed with a computer generated receipt as your reminder.
So, he got his library card and bee-lined for the kids section. Juvenile Books, to be exact. I led him over to the picture books. All seven long aisles of them. Overwhelmed, much?
I decided that it would be best to limit the selection for the first go round. I took him to the very last aisle, and told him he could select 5 books. His method of selection was pretty interesting. He would pick up whatever seemed to catch his eye and exclaim, "Oh, I want to check out this one!" Some of them were deemed "Too scary" and others, "No, no, no, no, no...." I could never determine what his exact criteria for check-out-ability was, but we ended up with a pretty good variety. The themes were mud, cows, a bald kid, a snowman, some bugs, and a Curious George thrown in for good measure.
He has taken extremely good care of his temporary treasures, and seems enchanted by his stack of "new" books that he likes to remind me are "just borrowed".
The impending ice storm never panned out, but I am glad it gave me a push to introduce my son to what I pray will be a long and rich relationship with one of the great jewels of a civilized society. I just hope we are still civilized enough to have real books, in real libraries, when it comes time for my grandchild's first library card.