LIBRARY AND THE LIBRARIAN
One fine Sunday morning, I accompanied my father as he was preparing to go out to meet his friends. I must have been around seven. He took me to a building and we started climbing the stairs towards the first floor. As we landed on the floor, I saw a massive door in front of me. Pushing that door open, my father led me inside. That was my first meeting with a ‘Library’. I don’t think that I knew the term ‘Library’ before that.
It was a public library set up on the first floor of that building. All across the walls, there were cupboards holding books, books and lot of books. On one side of that hall were several rows of bookcases lined up. I could see few people in between those rows looking for books which they wanted to read. On the other side of the hall, there were three long benches arranged with many chairs around them. It was there where my father’s friends were waiting for him while reading newspapers. The hall was well-lit with sunlight coming through large windows and those long benches were green in color. This is what I remember of my first encounter with the library.
I was completely enthralled by that library and from then onwards I used to beg my father to take me to the library every Sunday. Unfortunately, there were no books fit for young kids like me so I couldn’t issue any for myself but still, I loved to go there. I loved moving in the spaces between the rows of bookcases and tried counting the number of books which I could see. The smell of the books, the hushed atmosphere where a whisper or two used to float in the air every once in a while…used to cast a spell on me, so much so that I never liked going out of that library.
It must be then that my love for books would have triggered off because I started venturing into the library of my school. Our school library started issuing books to children from 5th grade onwards. Until 4th grade, we used to go to the library and were provided storybooks to read for that period only. Our library teacher was very firm in practicing the rules of the library. ‘There should be perfect silence. If needed, students can only whisper to communicate. Students should read the book and keep it back from the place they picked it from. After coming to the library and before going back to the class, the chairs were to be properly arranged back in the same position. Care had to be taken that they were not dragged but lifted to be placed back.’ These rules were ingrained within us in every library class, throughout my school life.
Came 5th grade and finally, I got the chance to issue the books home every week. Now, I need to mention that our librarian-teacher, although a firm lady was very knowledgeable about books. On the first day as we queued up to issue the books, she gently asked each student which sort of stories they loved to read. On that basis, she recommended the books to them which could enhance the habit of reading among the students. That was the day when I was introduced to Enid Blyton.
I couldn’t have been happier back then. The world of Enid Blyton is something which every child should step into. I believe any childhood is incomplete without Enid Blyton’s books. I started from Secret Seven series but soon became fond of her other famous series like St. Clare’s and Famous Five. Every week I waited for the Library period eagerly. As I grew, my teacher introduced to me to various authors like Carolyn Keene, Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer, Betty Neels. Along with these, I started reading Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. My teacher knew my fondness towards reading books and used to constantly guide me to try different genres. By 10th grade, I had read most of the classics appropriate for my age.
The relationship between me and my teacher grew and we became more like friends. We used to endlessly talk about books and various authors. If there was any new book she liked, she shared it with me. I used to always ask advice from her if I wanted to try a new genre. Many at times I used to watch her cataloging the books in her register. It was really fascinating to watch how she categorized and organized the books in the library. So much so that at one point in time, I had started thinking to pursue the career of a librarian.
The school library started becoming my favorite place to hang-out as well as a hide-out. In 11th and 12th grade, I used to come to the library to escape from the boring lectures. She always knew when I am missing my classes but instead of rebuking or scolding me, she used to just point out to me towards my favorite books section. Once I asked her that why she never questions me about my untimely appearances in the library knowing very well that I have classes going on which I should attend. She smiled and said, “Not attending the classes is something which most students do at this age. The important question is what they do during that free time. What better place to spend that time than in the library.” I don’t know whether she was right or wrong but that day I knew, I had found a friend in my library teacher.
One day as I was lingering in the library, the school principal entered. Luckily I was on the other side of the counter table leafing through some new books which my teacher had asked me to. The moment I saw the principal, I panicked and within a fraction of second ducked under the table. By the time, my library teacher could figure out what had just happened, the principal was upon us. Those five minutes, till the principal conversed with my teacher were so nerve-wracking for both of us. Thankfully the principal didn’t get a hint and she went away. As I came out, I looked at my teacher. We stared at each other for a while and then started giggling uncontrollably. It was a narrow escape.
As I started my college, I used to visit her occasionally to talk to her about the new books I had read or should read. As my life became busier, my visits became less. I had gone to meet her after my engagement and also before my marriage. She advised me to keep reading the books as they will be one stable part of my life and will always be with me in my highs and lows. Her words came out so true.
Whenever we used to relocate due to my husband’s job, the first thing I searched for, in my new neighborhood, was a Library. That always gave me a sense of settling down. For me, Library is not a luxury but one of the necessities of life.
This blog post is part of #A2ZChallenge. My theme for the year 2018 is Memories. This post is for letter ‘L’.