Monday, November 5, 2012


   by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

 A friend recently reported that her grandson said his dad took him to the library, and he loved it. Her daughter-in-law said the father had taken the son there because trips to the library were one of his favorite memories from childhood. What a wonderful tradition this friend has handed down!

 It brought to mind my own childhood library visits. I loved them, too, even though I was only allowed to take out three books at a time. I could’ve easily piled up ten that I just had to read, so my library time was spent deciding. So many tempting choices!

One time, my mother gathered the rest of my siblings into the station wagon and was halfway home before she realized she was short one kid. She came back to find me trying to hurriedly read a fourth book I wouldn’t be allowed to check out, blissfully unaware I’d been forgotten and left behind.
A younger Kathy (center) doing what she still loves: reading

A not-so-blissful memory was the day I received an important-looking letter from the Public Library of Hamilton County. Mail addressed to an eight-year-old did not arrive frequently at our house. It said a book on Davy Crockett was way past due, and if I didn’t return it immediately and pay the fine, my library privileges would be revoked.

After Mom explained to me what “revoked” meant, I was devastated. I loved the library. I loved books. They couldn’t take that away from me. They just couldn’t!

“What did you do with the book?” Mom asked.

I never had that book, I explained, never checked it out, never read it, never saw it.

Mom drove me to the library, where I handed that official letter to the librarian and told her there had been a mistake. She didn’t believe me. “You must have forgotten,” she said.

When my mother stepped forward, the librarian pulled the slip on the Davy Crockett book and showed us where my card number had been written. (Yes, I’m so old that our card numbers were handwritten on slips pulled from the back of the book and kept on file until we returned the book.)

When the librarian and my mother scrutinized the slip, they realized a one had been written so near to a five it had been mistaken for a seven. My number had a five-seven, not a five-one. I was off the hook.

I had a question. “If the person with the five-one ever brings back the book, can I read it?”
I still love the library. But it’s a different place now, where most people seem to hover over computers instead of paging through books. I asked two college students, my nephew (Chris) and his girlfriend (Sierra), about their memories of library visits.

I should have known better than to ask Chris, the same Chris whose mother had brought him over to borrow a book when a school assignment was to read a novel by a twentieth-century American writer. I pointed out a Hemingway, a Steinbeck, a Faulkner. A cursory look and he shook his head. “Too thick,” he said of one. “Print’s too small,” he said of another.

“Chris,” I insisted, “GRAPES OF WRATH is a classic.”

He looked further down my shelf and found HORTON HEARS A WHO. He said, “Now there’s a classic.” Good taste, Chris, and yes, Dr. Seuss is a twentieth-century American writer, but it’s not a novel. I don’t remember what he finally read for his assignment, but I guarantee it had plenty of white space and wasn’t thick, and it didn’t have a single Who.

Even non-reader Chris has memories of the library. He said he sat on the floor in the picture book section and looked at pictures. Pop-up books were his favorite. Chris still likes pictures and is a very talented artist.

Sierra, on the other hand, loves to read. She said she loves the library and books—actual books. She downloads a few onto her device when practicality demands it, but for pure enjoyment she likes real books with paper pages.

Thanks, Sierra. My faith in the future is restored.


  1. What a great memory, Kathy! Glad to know that you aren't a library criminal :)

    1. Thanks, Gina. I was innocent that time anyway.

  2. I loved your library memory, Kathy. I grew up with a beautiful library built with heavy wooden tables and wood and leather chairs and a lovely wooden cabinets for the card catalog. Remember those? Outside was a big grassy hill where we had the summer reading party and a huge fountain made of white stone. One year I got my picture in the paper for reading the most books during the summer reading program. I may never get back to that little town in California, but if I did, I might discover that the library has been modernized. I hope not.

    1. Your library sounds lovely, Ann. And still such a vivid memory. I can tell you loved it there. And I remember well the card catalogs. I spent a lot of time flipping through them.