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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Treasures in the Library- an article

My cousin wrote this article for her local newspaper. She is a librarian in Idaho. I thought it was really touching. Read on:

Treasures in the Library
By Kathryn Poulter, Youth Services Supervisor, Marshall Public Library

I have been haunted most of my life by the memory of a book I read once
when I was very young. It was most likely a library book, because it
certainly wasn’t part of my life for very long, but in spite of its
short stay, it made a lasting impression on me. Of course I can’t
remember the title or anything concrete about it. If I could recall even
a word of the title I’m sure I would have tracked it down long ago. No,
the impression I have of the book is much more vague. All I can recall
is an image of lovebirds in a cage, of a pavilion in a garden with
fountains and marble steps, and haunting, bittersweet strains of music I
can’t quite hear. There also seems to have been something about olden
times and rustling silk and patient love waiting in hope, even if that
hope is in vain. The image of the birds is the most vivid of this watery
memory. That, and the feeling of old times gone. Over the years I have
tried again and again to recall more than this, but if I try too hard,
the memory slips away and I don’t know if I am inventing details or if I
am really remembering a snatch of phrase or fragment of a passage. Even
as I think about it I seem to recall something about a window. I’ll
leave it at that.
Losing that book has colored my life somehow. In part it may have been
the wispy memory of those lovebirds in a cage that led me to become a
librarian in the first place. Or maybe not. Whatever the reason, I seem
to be always on the lookout for a treasure of one kind or another. Maybe
it’s not really that particular book I’m seeking anymore but something
less substantial, the purpose of my life, maybe. I do know that I always
have the hope that a new book, a new person in my life, a new bend in
the road may hold a clue or a key I can use to finally comprehend life’s
elusive meaning.
And then last week I found it. I really did! Just when I arrived at a
spot where I felt maybe I didn’t need to ask the unanswerable question
about the purpose of life anymore, I found it. Not the answer, no, the
long-lost book! In December I was listening to the radio and heard
Daniel Pinkwater talking about an old favorite book that had been
reissued by the New York Review company. That book, The Thirteen Clocks
by James Thurber, is one I have loved for years and years. I grew up
with its clever words and beautiful fairy tale, and I’ve read it more
times than I can count—enough that the words resonate inside of me and I
know when my favorite lines are coming. So I looked up the New York
Review Children’s Collection and ordered one of almost all of the
children’s books for the Marshall Public Library. Two were books we
already had, but they were so dog-eared and well-used that I knew a
brand new book with a clean cover and crisp pages would be much more
tantalizing for children to choose. Then last week the stack of books
arrived, and as usual I leafed through each of them and set aside a few
to take home and read word by word.
I remember it was early in the morning. I had a library conference to
attend so I came extra early to make a head start on the day. I took the
first book off the pile and opened it to a page a little past the
middle. I looked, then looked again. The story I had turned to was
short, only about three pages long, but it was MY STORY, the one about
the lovebirds! As I read it, I didn’t find the marble steps or the
fountains or the striped pavilions (those might be waiting in different
stories), but as I reread the words the memories and enchantment came
flooding back. I hadn’t really forgotten after all, the story had been
in my heart all along. Only then did I look to see which book of the
many on my desk I had picked up. It was Eleanor Farjeon’s The Little
Bookroom, one of the books I had reordered because the library’s
original copy had been loved almost to pieces.
I’m still trying to figure out that experience. Was it just a
coincidence? Or was there something deeper? All I know is that I thought
the book was gone forever. But it was really not five steps from my desk
these past years. Maybe many things are like that, waiting patiently
until we stumble across them and realize they have been there all along.
Is my life different now that I found the long-lost book? Probably not.
But I hope I will have a little more faith that what I seek really does
exist. If I look carefully enough I will find it, waiting patiently to
be rediscovered. And maybe like the words of my story it will flow into
me with the familiarity of an old friend’s voice or slip into my life
like my feet into a comfortable pair of shoes. I do know I won’t stop
looking, because after all, nothing is ever really lost.

Kathryn L. Poulter
Youth Services Supervisor
Marshall Public Library
113 South Garfield
Pocatello, Idaho 83204
Voice: (208) 232-1263 , extension 28 or 40
Fax: (208) 232-9266
"Wicked people never have time for reading.
It's one of the reasons for their wickedness."
—Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril, p. 226