Wonderful World of Libraries

By Jeff Salter

Having spent some 30 years in the library profession, I guess I could write this column blindfolded — favorite memories of library visits. But there have been so many – most from my childhood and youth, long before my professional library life… but almost certainly nudging me toward it – that it’s difficult to select merely one or two.

So let me just begin with the overall understanding that I’ve loved books since I was a toddler. My parents read to me, and I learned to read early. Once I was reading, I took off and never looked back.

A memory from first grade was that my mom would put my baby sister in a little red wagon and walk to nearby downtown, where we would get needed items from grocery, drug store, hardware, and (often) the Covington Branch of the St. Tammany Parish Library. I loved going there and still remember some of the books I checked out. My mom would carry all those items, including the books, in the wagon behind little sister, back to our house.

One of the highlights of my third grade year was when my teacher, Miss Ray Netterville, took me and a few other kids who were good readers to the “big kid” library in Covington Elementary School … the one normally reserved for 4th and 5th graders. Gosh, did I feel important being allowed in that space!

Once I reached 4th and 5th grade, I read every biography I could find in that collection. Loved those biographies in the Bobbs-Merrill Childhood of Famous Americans series.

Fast forward a few years and I’m in Covington Junior High. Our speech teacher, Paul LaCroix, took (walked) our speech class to that same downtown public library branch and taught us how to use the Readers Guide to find magazine articles on current topics. This was in preparation for a debate we had to participate in.

Zoom forward again, and I’m a junior and senior in Covington High School. Term papers, book reports, you name it. For some of the more esoteric topics (in senior English), in which the local collection was lacking, the branch librarians would order books from the Louisiana State Library for a specified period … and, of course, they were “reserve” only, so we had to use them on the premises. It always impressed me that they went to that extra effort to get those materials and that the teacher, Mrs. Erlene Howser (Ward), made the necessary contacts with the proper lead-time. I also never forgot that the librarians in that branch allowed us rambunctious teens quite a bit of leeway in our decorum. Not that we were necessarily horrid, but we certainly breached the standard “shush!” laws. Their tolerance served as a model for me in my later career, in how to deal with school kids who had a bit more energy than sense, but who weren’t actually “bad” kids.

As I said starting out, I believe many of these early experiences directly contributed to my decision to attend graduate library school at LSU and begin my career in that profession. I had many rich experiences AS a librarian, too, but that’s a topic for another day.

Question:
            What were some of YOUR favorite memories using libraries?

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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36 Responses to Wonderful World of Libraries

  1. Lisa Orchard says:

    Great post Jeff! Libraries certainly play an important role in our lives, don’t they?

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks, Lisa.
      Yes, I shudder to imagine what my life would have been like if I had not been taught to read and not shown the value (entertainment and education) of books and other materials.

      Like

  2. I can imagine your feelings on being taken to the ‘big kid’ library,Jeff.I am glad that your teacher was paying attention.I was often bored at school.
    My grandkids have varied reading levels in the libraries of their schools.Each book is rated and although the kids can check out any of the books for their own pleasure, their reading levels are constantly monitored. They must take a certain number of tests on a certain number of books to check their comprehension level, and are not allowed to get behind in reading by always running through books where they are confused or lost because they are beyond the child’s comprehension, or to continue in books that are too easy for them. They’re going to make readers out of those kids if it kill them!
    Great memories…love the image of you , your sister and your mother!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      My grandkids also have a program in which they read books from some list, and then are “tested” on retention of certain content. At year end, they are awarded for their accumulated points.
      That kind of program was not around when our kids were small.

      Like

  3. Great post, Jeff! From the bookmobiles that brought adventure into my childhood to the safe haven of my junior high library when I was the new kid at school, they were the one place I felt at home. Thanks for bringing back those wonderful memories and for sharing yours.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thank you, Stephanie. And welcome to Hound Day.
      Yes … safe haven is a great description of libraries — whether school or public. I also worked a year, part-time, in the academic library at LSU (my graduate assistantship) … and to some degree college libraries are also havens.

      Like

  4. Win Day says:

    Love, love, love libraries. In fact, the heroine of my current work in progress is an archivist hired to catalogue and restore a library. As a terribly shy child, books were my refuge. There’s no way my parents could have purchased (or stored, for that matter) the number of books I consumed in a year. When I was very young, the library in our public school was also a branch of the public library. That changed when I was in grade 9 and the city built a much larger separate branch — which meant MORE BOOKS in my neighbourhood! It doesn’t get any better than that!

    Like

  5. Jim Cangany says:

    Wonderful post, Jeff! I have so many great memories of library experiences through the years. The first library I visited was the Brown Branch Library in Indianapolis. I was there constantly. Over the years, I discovered some of my favorite authors like Terry Pratchett and Ben Bova at the library. The world is a better place with libraries in it!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thank you, Jim, for stopping by today. Ironic how libraries — as important to human life and society survival as they are — have continually faced funding challenges. So many American public libraries, for example, have been forced to exist on a shoestring budget for generations in some cases. And many grand, new library facilities have had to immediately cut back hours or staff or both. adequate funding is a continual struggle.

      Like

  6. duffybrown says:

    Can’t imagine life without libraries. I’ve always considered how good a city is by the number of libraries.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Me neither, Duffy. Many people use that same yardstick you noted: assessing a city or community by such things as libraries, schools, and parks. It says a LOT about the city’s history and leadership when you find places where libraries thrive.

      Like

  7. Ariella Moon says:

    My childhood library was a converted one-room schoolhouse. Its musty smell and promise of hidden adventure linger with me still.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      The first one I used in Covington LA, was not much more than 3 rooms. I guess it was either converted from a small home or a small office, but I’m pretty certain it was not built as a library. By the time I was in high school, they’d built a new, modern library facility about half a mile away. Years after I moved away they built a HQ lib. bldg. farther west and south of that site.

      Like

    • I think all Bookmobiles smell alike…it always sends me right back to my childhood.

      Like

  8. My favorite library memory is walking ten blocks to the public library at once a week during the summer. They always had a contest and had prizes for kids who read the most, and I always wanted to win, so I’d sign out the maximum number of books allowed, pull them home in my brother’s wagon, and return just as soon as I got those read. I never won, but I read a lot of great books.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      One of the joys of my very few years in Catahoula Parish’s library system was seeing those kids who’d read as many as 300 books in one summer. They really grooved on the competition and LOVED reading.

      Like

  9. Denise says:

    My favorite librarian – the man who shares my love for books – Jeff Salter. Happy Anniversary, Jeff!

    Like

  10. pjharjo says:

    I LOVED reading about your library memories from back in the day, Jeff! Your wagon pulled behind momma memory evoked visions of a much simpler time of life. 🙂 Thanks!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Much simpler, indeed. For much of my childhood, we were a single-income family (with very little income) and my thrifty mom worked at home. How she managed on our household budget I can scarcely imagine… but we never went hungry.

      Like

  11. Iris B says:

    You hit a nerve, Jeff. Look at all these wonderful comments!
    I just sneak outta here, because as mentioned the other day … Library is not something I can actually find in my memory …. until VERY recent years!
    I need to have a chat about that with my mum …..

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      well, some communities have not have the good fortune of having healthy libraries … or not having them convenient to the person needing them.
      Perhaps your branches were too far away or in dangerous areas…

      Like

  12. jbrayweber says:

    Great post and many happy memories, Jeff.
    My earliest memory of my neighborhood library (because I lived in the large city of Houston) was attending a “haunted house” in the children’s section of the library. Don’t remember it other than we went AT NIGHT! Unheard of!! LOL. My next memory was going to the county library (because we moved out to the country, which incidentally in still Houston) to do research for my project on owls…or maybe it was eagles. And then again to do research on some old dead important guy. Ha! The library has since expanded. It’s much much much larger now. I still go every week to get movies or books for the kiddos. And sometimes for research.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      that haunted house sounds like fun, Jenn.
      When I was at Catahoula Parish Library, I brought in some things to entertain the kids when I could find them… on our shoestring budget.
      One was basically a few dozen cardboard barrels which latched together. The kids loved it!
      Libraries should be fun for kids.

      Like

      • jbrayweber says:

        They really should be fun. It fosters kid’s imaginations.

        Like

      • jeff7salter says:

        I really feel sorry for kids — and I’ve known some — who were raised to believe reading was drudgery. It opens whole new worlds for us! I had a neighbor for several years who (more than once) proudly told me — knowing I was a librarian and a writer — “I’ve never read a book in my life.”
        It always made me very sad for him.

        Like

  13. Micki Gibson says:

    Your post reminded me of school library visits. I remember how excited I’d get for library day. I also remember in first grade how annoyed I’d get when the librarian would only let us check out books from the one section. “Oh, those bigger books are too hard for you.” Oh yeah? Watch me lady. I’d devour anything to read to the extent that I caused some embarrassment for my parents and we’d visit one of their friend’s houses. No magazines or books, so I started reading their mail. My mother was mortified. Needless to say, she loved taking us to the bookmobile. I thought that was the coolest thing ever, especially since the town library was too far (until they built the one I mentioned in my Wednesday post.)

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Yeah, unfortunately some library employees felt the need to “guide” children away from what they wanted to read (and, in your case, were perfectly capable of reading). But when the staff would take time to interview the child, even briefly, it was usually possible to appreciate a general sense of their reading level. For those library people who just looked at age or size of the child, too many missed the mark … resulting in frustration for the kids involved.
      I once had the opposite situation. On the single time I recall the bookmobile at our school, I spotted a Disney book about Dumbo, one of my favorite cartoon movies. So I wanted to re-read the story in print form. The library worker said, “Oh, that’s too young for your grade” and wouldn’t let me borrow the book. Yeah, I knew a picture book was lower than my reading level, but I WANTED to read it ANYWAY!
      I think that experience was another which shaped the way I interacted with library patrons, especially kids — try to guide them, but don’t block them from reading what INTERESTS them.

      Like

  14. Kathleen says:

    I was a country kid, so summers away from school meant no easy contact with books in the library. My joy during the summer was the every-other-week visit of the book mobile to my neighborhood. They would let you check out as many books as you could carry and I could carry a lot. I would read all of the books the first week and reread them the second week.

    Liked by 1 person

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