The Library I Thought Was a Church by Angela Ferraris

Delaware Public Library--Carnegie

Delaware Public Library–Carnegie

I walked into my classroom a month later with my book in hand excited to go to the book mobile again.  My air was punched out of me when the teacher told me that it came yesterday when I was home sick.  I would have to take it to the library. I must have had a confused look on my face, since I did not know what a library was at that time in my life. She wrote down the name of the library and address on a piece of paper and gave it to me. “Give this to your parents.”  I sat down.

As soon as I got home, I gave the paper to my mother who was always there  for me when I got home.  She waited until my father came home from working in Columbus and showed him the paper.  The next day we went to Delaware. We usually went grocery shopping on Saturday mornings at Buehler’s, but this time we made a detour to a grand building.  We slowly walked up the steps that had two large columns on either side. I saw that it said (C something) Library on the top. I did not know who Carnegie was until thirty years later. Above the door, it said “Free to All”.

The wooden doors were heavy. My father had to open them while we went in, stopping immediately to look at the display case to our left. It was full of model trains.  My father was delighted.  I stood there impatiently looking up the steps to another set of tall wooden doors with windows too.  We finally walked up the steps with my father first, so he could open the doors again.  They creaked a bit.

A gush of wind blew my hair around my face. I recognized the smell. It was the same as the book mobile’s.  We walked inside to what looked like a church. The ceiling was domed with paintings all around it. A large u-shaped wooden desk greeted us.  There were adjoining rooms. The floors had tiles with patterns. There were books everywhere on high shelves and rows. In one corner there were tall wooden chest of drawers with a lot of small drawers.  I felt a great since of happiness but did not know why.

An older woman with peppered hair in a bobbed style smiled  and walked over to talk to us, as we obviously had never been there before with all the gawking we were doing. My father explained about the book I had in my hands.  She invited us over to the tall counter.  My sister could not see over it. I was only able to see over the top. I gave her the book, a little sad to see it go.  My father thanked the librarian, and we started to leave.

“Do you have a library card with us?” she asked. “Oh, no. We do not live in Delaware. We are way out in the country,” he explained. She pointed to a huge map on the wall behind us. “Well, do you live in Delaware County?  You could get cards if you do.” “Well, ah, yes. We live here,” he said showing her. I was fascinated by the map. I had never seen one before of where I lived. There was one hanging from the chalkboard at school of the United States. I knew where Ohio was located.

“Oh, wonderful. Here,” she said going behind the counter. “All you have to do is fill out these cards with a piece of id with your address on it, and you can start checking out books today.” I stood there with confusion looking at my sister. “Now, children may have a card. We only require that they be able to write their name.” I could have a card!  I could write my name!  I wrote my name on a little card given to me as my parents filled out an index card.  My sister was not happy.  The librarian leaned over the counter. “I bet you could practice writing your name when you go home and show me the next time you came in.”  That brightened my sister’s face.

The librarian kindly gave us a tour of the library. There were so many books of different colors and sizes and thicknesses. The children’s room had little chairs just like school and was decorated. The bathroom was there too. The reference room. It had large, dark green books full of maps that were opened on a table. The nonfiction stacks continued into another room that was cold. A door leading to the basement. Off limits. The last room had a fireplace and leather chairs. A funny piece of furniture held dangling newspapers from long sticks. Fiction books. Another bathroom. I could look out the long windows and see passing cars on Sandusky.

My father let us have one book each allowing us to pick whichever one we wanted from the children’s room. My sister and I both excitedly went back into the area that was just for us. No one was there. We looked at each other. There were so many books to chose from. Only one? We knew better than to ask for more. We both found a book and met our parents back at the front desk. Everyone only took out one book each that day. I wrote my name on the card the librarian took from the back of the book.  I’ll never forget that book. It was my first picture book. The first book I took out of my new church.

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