civic-center-library-01The Scottsdale, Arizona library has a justly famous sculpture outside. My mother’s most vivid memories of me in Arizona are of me climbing on the pieces that make it up (it was allowed, I gather; and by the way, I am not talking about the ‘LOVE’ sculpture because that wasn’t there during my early childhood days in the southwest).

My most prominent memory of that library is actually of what felt like a terrible failure.

My kindergarten class went there on a school field trip and I remember how huge it felt. Soaring, in fact. The image in my head is actually conflated with the interior of the Guggenheim, for some reason.

We were each supposed to find a book to bring back to the classroom. Even then, I was known as a reader and I was assured that someone like me would have no trouble finding something wonderful to bring back.

I cracked under the pressure. I remember staring at the shelves of children’s books and nothing looked adequate to the expectations I felt held to. I don’t even remember what I grabbed, in the end, only that I grabbed it last minute, as the clock was ticking down for us to leave, and that I could in no way justify it as a worthwhile read.

Later in life, when I lived in Gulfport, Florida, I would walk up to that town’s library almost every day to read the paper and other periodicals. In college, I frequently planted myself in the library for hours at a time, not studying, but randomly reading.

In Los Angeles, the local library rarely ‘worked’ for me. I just wasn’t feeling it and didn’t use it much (I think I only checked out one book in three years).

Nowadays, I live across the street from a branch of the DC Public Library. It’s hours are frequently awkward, but I still manage to use it a lot (mostly, reserving books and having them sent there). As I am trying to restrain my book buying habits, I have taken to using it relatively often (though even a large system like DCPL doesn’t always have everything that I’m looking for).