Joy of Reading and the Small Town Library

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“Print is dead”, said Dr.Egon Spengler from the movie Ghostbusters.  You’ll never convince me of that. There will always be those of us that like the weight of a book in our lap.  I am more than a little appalled to realize that not all people share my joy of reading.  The only time in my life that I didn’t read book after book was when my kids were young and I just didn’t have time. By the time they were asleep and I’d straightened the house, made lunches, finished the laundry and put on my pjs, I was too exhausted to read .  If I did pick up a book, I would instantly fall asleep and wake with a jolt when the book hit the floor.  I remember the exact moment that I realized I could read again and it was glorious!

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This love of reading, thankfully, has been a part of me since I was very young.  When my mother would read to me, her voice like velvet, I would melt into her lap and dread the moment when she said “The End”.  

I have a vivid memory of the first time she took me to the library.  We had moved to the small community of Lakeside, east of San Diego, 1958.  The library was in Lindo Lake Park.  It sat next to where the current cement block, early 1960s library is now. It was a lovely one room schoolhouse from the 1800s.  At least that’s how I remember it, it may have just been an old house.  I can conjure up the smell of it if I try, old wood and that wonderful addicting smell of many hundreds of books.  Not knowing yet how much I would love it, I only chose two books. By the end of the afternoon I was begging my mother to take me back for more. Of course she couldn’t, but the next time we went I piled the books so high I asked her to carry half, only to be told I could only take as many as I could carry, her pile being at least as tall as mine.  That was 60 years ago and I still lament over the closing and moving of that library! I suppose the town council was thinking of progress and population growth.  The new library was fine, it was big, it was efficient, there were more books. I got as much enjoyment from the books there as from the old one, almost.  But it didn’t have the right smell or the warm ambience of that old library, the cement floors never made that comforting, creaking sound of the old hardwood.

Lakeside Library
Courtesy of Billy Ortiz

Growing up in Lakeside, reading was just one of my many pastimes.  I thought, at the time, there was never anything to do there.  The beach was too far, the shopping centers as well.  So we read, we walked, we explored, we play acted TV westerns, sang songs.  We were free to walk to the middle of town and play at the park,  fish for crawdads in Lindo Lake or buy penny candy at Sam’s Liquor Store.  There was a bakery, a cafe and the library. I consider myself lucky having grown up there and have fond memories it all.  I know I didn’t appreciate it enough when I was young.  I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could move away, anywhere else. But it was as real as anywhere and the people were genuine, it taught me to be curious and in the moment.

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Courtesy of Marcie Smith

My cousin sent me this picture of the 1960s library and let me know that it would soon be replaced by a new modern one.  It will be located away from Lindo Lake, and hopefully will be full of light and neat rows of bookshelves,  all of the new technology and the capability for readers to peruse the stacks online and then walk up to the counter and have their books ready and waiting.  After all, anything that helps people to enjoy reading is welcome.

The fact that there is a new library on the roster shows what a forward thinking American town Lakeside is.  It gives me hope, when all over the country you hear about libraries closing.  Where I live now, in the Pacific Northwest, many of the libraries have become volunteer run.  This means that the hours are sporadic and if no one is available to cover a shift, the library is closed.  This is a travesty when the powers that be hold back taxes from something as worthwhile to citizens as a lending library.

As Lakeside moves ever forward, the Lakeside Historical Society is preserving it’s history.  They hold some amazing photos of the town and run a museum and history center.  If you make it down to San Diego, take time to visit this ever changing place that still retains that small America feeling that is rapidly disappearing.

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