Shhhhhh…

Listen, do you hear it? The proverbial pin drop that always describes ‘absolute quiet’?

Close your eyes and sniff! Do you smell it, the familiar scent of a room full of books?

It’s the library!

The branch library on Main Street had a special attraction for me, in my hometown of Worcester. If I close my eyes and conjure up that time in my life, I can easily picture it. And, yes, smell it, too!

From the large storefront windows that displayed books, to the sprawling checkout counter, I can see myself there now, kneeling on the carpeted floor, head angled forty-five degrees to the right, reading book spines in the hunt for exciting titles, in the ‘young readers’ section.

The bespectacled librarian, with her laser-like stare that could burn a hole right through you, and a well developed ‘Shhhhhhhh’ that blew through the room like a nor’easter, kept the library orderly and mum. She’s gone, of course, and I doubt the library is still there, more likely a nail salon now, with last year’s magazines. They’re everywhere, salons that is.

The Battle of Britain, Custer’s Last Stand, Ghengis Kahn and The Mongol Horde, as well as other Landmark titles were among my favorite books. I’d walk home with more than I could read in the allotted check-out time. Nevertheless, it was easy to pick one, settle down and get lost in adventure after adventure. Books can do that.

Sure, I have a Kindle and other electronic devices to download stories. And, yes, I can get books on tape, but there’s something special about patronizing a library. You’re among other readers for some quiet socializing, you’re moving for exercise and looking so sophisticated when walking about with your L.L.Bean ‘save the earth’ recyclable tote.

Of course, as a preteen, the library was a place to rendezvous with that ‘special love of your life’ where it was actually okay to say sweet nothings to each other, as long as they were whispered. You got to practice being a gentleman by carrying your love’s books home.

Reading was such a pleasure at that age but changes were about to happen. I hit middle school, then high school and reading books became a requirement for book reports, sometimes orally. The stress caused by a ‘requirement’ put the brakes on reading for pleasure. Landmark became ‘badmarks’ because once reading was required, I lost interest.

Fortunately, as an adult, I recaptured the pleasure of reading. My favorite genre is historical fiction and biographies. My town has a beautiful public library of its own where they have a great selection to satisfy anyone’s reading taste.

Do you enjoy reading? What is your favorite material to read and is there a book that stands out as your most enjoyable ever?

Mark Twain is credited with the following:

A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.’

My books are like trophies, they collect dust, but take me wherever I want to go and I proudly display them.

To Jennie and book lovers everywhere, and to Sheila and all librarians who have mastered the ‘Shhhhhh’…

Steve (srbottch.com)

January 2020

Published by

srbottch

Retired in 2013 after 5 years as an elementary school teacher and 40 years as a sales representative to begin anew as a school crossing guard. SMy essays/stories are a way to communicate through the telling of personal experiences. One reader said about my blog stories, "...these are like a cold sip during a marathon run, simple, real life events". Another offered about my blog, “it brings some sense of normalcy not easily found in the modern world.”

36 thoughts on “Shhhhhh…”

  1. I’m nodding my head how reading can feel different when it’s required. Most of my days close with a yawn, a smile, and a drifting off to sleep, wondering what is going to happen next in the book I’m reading. Would it still be as pleasurable if it were required reading?

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      1. I’ve been enjoying historical novels or stories of historical events. Newt Gingrich is an historian by training and has coauthored some wonderful stories on the Amer Rev and another Civil War story. Brian Kilmeade is another good story writer of historical events. I enjoy some biographies, as well. Washington, Adams and Jibs were all excellent. I’ve been trying to read American Lion, Andrew Jackson’s biography but haven’t stuck with it. Atlas Shrugged is one of my favorite books.

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    1. Atlas Shrugged is one of my all time favorites, especially her comments about ‘Robin Hood’. I’ve heard that Fountainhead is good, too. It’s on my ‘to read’ list. Thanks for commenting.

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    1. Wonderful story, Derrick. I know the Downs lady, I can picture her. My first job out of college was an elementary school teacher and my principal was Mrs. Downs. She was an older woman, nearing retirement, and I was 22. While she ruled with an iron fist, she was a sweetheart. But, one always made sure to follow her rules. I loved your story. Are you still a prolific reader?

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  2. Love this! I hope libraries are around for many moons to come–we need them for more than just the books. I think the book that had the most impact on me–beautiful language and story–is The Book Thief. Phenomenal writing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Libraries are such nice places to escape when you need to relax. So glad you liked it, I mean LOVED it. And you even thought my writing was phenomenal. Oh, wait, you meant the book author…😉. That is a mysterious title, The Book Thief. Thank you so much for commenting.

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  3. The first thing I did in every city and state we ever moved to was get a library card. In some countries that wasn’t so easy to do but the books have always grounded me and saved me from abject loneliness in a new place. My children grew up in libraries and we started their own. I have my own at home too as I no longer drive enough to get there. Now I have to be grateful for audible or kindle but I go to sleep each night with one of my own books in my bed. We had a lovely library here until they ‘MODERNIZED” it. 😦 Still, it feels sacred when I get there to visit. I’ll get there this Wednesday for a sit and smell the books. A world without books? Not for me. Jennie even has me reading the children’s books I missed.

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    1. A wonderful comment. My ‘Shhhhh..’ story has elicited a variety of heartfelt replies which goes to show how much we love reading and in what high esteem we hold our libraries. Thank you very much for your comment.

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  4. As a young child, I was an avid reader . The only snag was there were hardly any books in our house . There was a Bible and I became an excellent reader at an early age , being able pronounce big words like Nebuchadnezzar . In those days, just after the War, you couldn’t join the local Library until you were seven! There was just one shelf with books for young readers in those days! Soon I had read them all and I was then obliged to chose from the Adult Section. We did have comics delivered and the one I had was ! Girls’ Crystal. I loved it because it had long stories in it. I was given a book each Christmas and nothing much more! I used to go round the houses and knock on doors and ask if I could borrow any books. That helped my craving to read a lot. I had some younger brothers and sisters, too, so the book collection grew. When I had my own children I made sure they had plenty of books . I remember my son having a letter from the Library saying ‘ Please return the 30 books that you have on loan! ‘ They were all under his bed. Now our local Library is quite different to what I knew as a child. Children’s groups use it for singing and shouting out. Poor homeless people spend the day reading the newspapers and magazines . There are a lot of computers dotted around for people to ‘ get on line’. The Library is now a fairly noisy place. I must admit that I often sit in there and I often have a strong urge to stand up and say, ‘ Shush!’

    >

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  5. Oh, books! I love books. I have a good many books from the mid to late 1800’s. One day my husband and I were yard sale-ing (I can never get that right) and we came across a man who’d owned a book store planned to travel in a motorhome. We bought all his books, magazines and old newspapers (4,000?) , so my house/garage is a library. We’ve sold a good many, which was our plan, but because these are so old and interesting, I have a hard time giving them up. I especially find interesting in the periodicals with accounts of events in history as it was happening. Books on technical information are easy to sell and not as interesting to read. I look at them more out of curiosity and wonder how electrical engineering may have changed from the early 1900’s to today, but only an engineer would know what to look for. The Royals were and have always been a popular theme, the years have not changed that. Books about authors and series by authors. Have you ever heard of Virginibus Puerisque, by Robert Louis Stevenson? I hadn’t.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What a fascinating story. Books have an allure, unlike a Kindle or tape. I agree on technical books. I like biographies and historical fiction, especially about the Amer Rev. There were so many interesting characters on both sides of the ocean during that time. As for the Royals, I think that the current turmoil with Harry/Megan will generate a slew of books. Thanks for your wonderful comments and Have a great day!

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  6. This is a wonderful post, Steve. We moved a lot when I was a girl, from one part of South Africa to another but I always managed to find the local library. I used to cycle there and I had a basket to pack my books into. I could take 7 books at a time and I used to make two trips a week. I read 14 books a week. How lovely being young is, no responsibilities.

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    1. Robbie, a wonderful memory. And I can see you on your bike in my mind’s eye. You could write an eloquent story about that, pictures and all, maybe even use it as a basis for a mystery. Do it! By the way, this story has garnered some of the best comments with respondents recalling their own library stories. Thanks, Robbie.

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      1. Yes, that is warm. That would be uncomfortable here, especially since we generally have high humidity that accompanies the heat. Thanks, Robbie. Have a great day and don’t get too much sun. 😊

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  7. This is wonderful, Steve! The look and smell and feel of libraries is as important as the books. That’s where the memories are made. I wish I had been to a library as a child. But, I think I am now reliving those lost years. Many thank yous for your dedication to me, and to Shiela whom I’m sure I would dearly love.

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  8. I love the community of comments that a compelling blog post can inspire! I, too, am a big fan of local libraries. I am lucky to live one block away from a small branch and a mile away from a lovely big branch (which doubled in size a few years ago while retaining much of the charm of the original structure). I am also a big fan of our interlibrary loan system. I currently am working on a one-hour program of songs by Irving Berlin; so I have piles of Berlin song books and Berlin biographies in my living room waiting to be read! I am also grateful that libraries are evolving in order to remain relevant and engaged with their communities. This sometimes does mean more noise (from a pre-school-aged sing-along hour, for example), but I’d much rather have children and families visiting their local library on a regular basis for special programs and events than not visiting it at all (for all of the wonderful reasons articulated in the previous comments above!) These days almost all I read are biographies — and occasionally memoirs/autobiographies — about/by songwriters and musical performers. The well-written ones include lots of historical context which helps brings history alive in new ways. I have recently read a wonderful tome about Bing Crosby’s life and career during WWII, for example, written by Gary Giddens — Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star: The War Years. Thank you for writing this love letter/blog post about public libraries and reading!!!

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