My earliest library memories are of the Jewell City Library, in Jewell, Kansas, where I grew up. The library was housed in the basement of the bank - accessed by the outside stairwell in the picture. I remember it as two dark, dank rooms that, frankly, gave me a bit of the creeps; governed by a frightening, ancient woman who probably devoured children. I later discovered that Mrs. Kelly was a perfectly pleasant, middle-aged woman, so I'm not sure where those childish visions came from. But the part of my memory about the rooms being dark and dank was true and the library later moved into a narrow strip of a room carved out of the new fire house. That is the library of my teens, where I discovered Stephen King and other things that go bump in the night. Maybe my reading choices had something to do with my vivid imagination about the librarian?
But, the dream library of my childhood was the Port Library in Beloit, Kansas, about fifteen miles from home. The Port Library is housed in an old two-story house. The children's section is on the second floor. The stairway was a magic carpet that opened into my fantasy land.
Former bedrooms have been knocked down to create one large space with multiple closets. Each closet is lined with bookshelves on a perfect level for children, and usually a beanbag chair - creating enchanted hide-aways where a little girl could get lost in a fairy-tale world for hours. In spite of the fact that my mom's not a reader herself, she was amazingly supportive of my love of books (except when they distracted me from my Saturday cleaning chores). Although we never made special trips to Beloit just for library visits, when we were in town for piano lessons or other outings, she was usually willing to drop me at the library to roam the magical kingdom on the second floor while she ran errands.
Part II tomorrow: Libraries that have changed my adult reading choices. Where are your favorite libraries, and what makes them special?