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Public Library Remembrances: Vote Yes for Our Super Library!

Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

While I cannot remember a time when I did not love reading, there have been moments when I, too, have taken the ability for granted. Even more so, I have taken for granted the many public libraries that bestowed the great gift of books and reading upon me.

Until now when my library, the Plain City Public Library, cannot be taken for granted any longer.

I think the Plain City Public Library is one of the nicest libraries I have ever used.  But if the tax levy does not pass this November, it may not be able to maintain its level of service to our community.  If the tax levy does not pass, the library may be forced to cut many programs currently offered.

The library is hoping to renew their current operating levy, which amounts to approximately $21 per $100,000 valuation (the same amount as it receives now).  This would be carried out over a five year period.  To put this into perspective, recently published hard cover books cost somewhere in the $25-30 range.  New DVDs cost nearly $20.  For the amount of tax you would pay, you could buy one or two books per year and one or two DVDs.  Or you could vote yes, support the library, and use an unlimited number of books and DVDs (the library has approximately 67,000 books and 10,000 audiovisual titles, plus access to millions of items through the Ohio intrastate library network) for an amount that will benefit the library in a huge way.

That seems a small price to pay for something I consider priceless.

Priceless, because public libraries made me the person I am today.

I always received books for birthdays and holidays, but my small collection was never enough to satisfy my insatiable appetite for reading.

From the time I could have one, I had my own library card.  Mom took Bobbie and me weekly to the public library in Mechanicsburg.  I always checked out my own books.   At that time, you had to actually sign your name in a card in the book!!  How archaic, I know.  Usually, my name was followed or preceded by my best friend, Amy’s name.  We read all the same books.  I was cool back then.  I only signed “Robin T.” and everyone knew it was me.

I’ve looked at some of those old signature cards as an adult and my childish handwriting brings to mind dozens of kindred spirits.

I made many childhood friends at the library.  Friends I still cherish.  Nancy Drew and Anne Shirley and Jo March.  Those friends are a part of me, haunting the shadowy halls of memory.

Every summer, we arrived at the library, clutching a box of crayons and a bumpy pillow from our bed.  We were members of the “Pillow and Crayon Club” at the Mechanicsburg Public Library.  The librarians, who were like members of our own family, shepherded us into a back corner of the adult section of the library (the only time we children were allowed in that forbidden realm).  We perched atop our pillows, legs and arms splayed out at awkward angles, while a librarian read books to us, holding them up so we could see the pictures.  I sat entranced, a spell of words cast upon me, lost in the worlds that appeared before me on smooth, cool pages.

Before she began reading, the librarian lit a candle.  Whoever sat quietly, no wiggling or whispering, during the entire story time, was chosen to blow out the flame when we finished.  I sat so still.  It was a big deal to get to puff out your cheeks and send a giant burst of air at the tiny spit of fire.

I was never chosen.

I never understood why the librarian picked the most unruly kid in the group to blow out the candle; the one she bribed with the ritual when he kicked his neighbors and guffawed loudly at inappropriate points in the story.

I would have sat still for a book, though, even without the candle and the librarians knew it.

Then one day, I was too old for “Pillow and Crayon Club.”

I was never, however, too old for libraries.

There were many other libraries to explore and, exquisitely, an endless supply of books.  In the summers, when I stayed with grandma, I rode my bike to the Hilliard Library.  They bagged my treasures up in a plastic drawstring bag and I rode home, books banging against my shin as I pedaled.  Often, grandma walked to the library with me—she loved to read as much as I did—and we spent whole afternoons wandering the aisles of books.

At home, I curled up in grandma’s lap and we became acquainted with James and the Giant Peach or Harriet the Spy or Old Yeller.

My aunt also took me, on special occasions, to the Upper Arlington Public Library and sometimes to the enormous library in downtown Columbus.  She possessed library cards to both.  You can imagine my jealousy!!

In those long ago days, before the internet, I had to search the library for information for book reports and papers.  Libraries were filled with magic; filled with all the knowledge of the world if you only knew where to look.

Libraries also served other purposes for me as I grew to be a teenager.   I was never as comfortable as in the confines of a library, surrounded by books.  Libraries were safe havens.

And, so, for a time, I hid out in a library.

When Joe and I first started dating, we weren’t allowed to see each other for a stretch of time.  I told everyone that I was going to the Urbana Public Library after school and I met Joe there.  We sat at a table well in view of the whole world, whispering, passing notes, doing homework, and giving each other starry-eyed looks.

Joe and I also went to the downtown library in Columbus on dates.  We didn’t have any money, but there was plenty to see and do at the library.  We watched the people who came in; we searched the reference section.  Mostly, we just wanted to be together, so it didn’t matter what we were doing.  The library served as a backdrop to our budding romance.

I have fond memories of public libraries.

I don’t want our public library to become only a memory. So PLEASE Vote Yes for our library!

To read a recent Madison Press article about the services provided at the Plain City Public Library, go HERE.

Please vote Yes for the Library Renewal Tax Levy this November.  You can also help by becoming a Friend of the Library.  For more information, please contact the Plain City Public Library Director, Chris Long, at 614-873-4912, ext. 23 or via email at clong@plaincitylib.org

To visit the Library Facebook page, go HERE.

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