“I Was a Library Ghost”
This blog post comes to us via TATAL, our YA Lit blog for Teens. TATAL won the post in a contest through Maggie Stiefvater’s publisher, Scholastic Inc. Stiefvater’s latest book, “The Dream Thieves,” has just been released.
When I was a child, I was small and quiet and mostly invisible. I was a navy brat — my family moved over a dozen times before I was 18 — and I was shy beyond belief. Also, I was small and evil. I found book people far more interesting than real people. So it wasn’t just that it was hard to make new friends . . . it was that I preferred to find them in the pages of books.
My mother was exceptionally clever, however, and so her first act upon arriving in a new town was to take all of her children to the local library and sign us up for library cards. And then we would make weekly trips for stacks of books. You’d think I would have had enough of traveling with all of the moving, but I never got tired of checking out a book and then going somewhere virtual and literary for another few hours.
Now, my parents also took us to bookstores, and that was thrilling in its own way (these books we got to keep forever, and that was quite a thing), but it wasn’t quite the same as going to a library. I realize now that I preferred libraries for the exact same reason that I like the young adult section of a bookstore. They didn’t force me to choose or prioritize. They were all genres under one roof. They were fiction and nonfiction and authors you’ve never heard of and subjects you hadn’t dreamt of yet. And unlike a bookstore, there was no price tag to make one thing more attractive than another, and no copyright date to make a book more relevant. I could not have fallen into so many big tomes of mythology if I’d been searching through a bookstore. I couldn’t have afforded it. I also couldn’t have fallen in love with Lloyd Alexander’s old and hard-to-find backlist at a bookstore. Libraries love everything equally, and their love is rather longer-lasting than a bookstore’s. They taught me that a good book can be shelved anywhere.
I wish I could tell you that I remembered the librarians who guided me fondly through my small, evil, anti-social childhood. I remember spending hours haunting the library, sitting in the stacks, paging through my latest find, and I remember librarians checking on me (what? Am I in trouble?) recommending titles to me (oh I’ve already read that one and that one and oh but not that one) and letting me break the rules to check out more books (so I really can take 32 home with me? Really!?).
But I don’t remember the librarians’ faces or names. I was small and evil and anti-social and self-absorbed, and so I only remember the books. I’m older and less evil and more social these days, so I’d like to extend a retroactive thanks to all of those librarians. I don’t know who you are, but you did a good job. Look how well I turned out. I have joined the land of the library living.