By in Personal

The Secret of the Abandoned Library

I loved going to the library when I was a child. I loved that I was was able to learn, and hear stories from the librarians. They taught me, as books did, about history and future, family and society, and that there was so much more actual knowledge, waiting to be discovered. It was as if the library (personified) was like a wonderful, loving, old aunt, ready to share her stories of life, adventures, and love.

I looked forward to going back in time to Civil War days and reading about the March sisters and how they turned from four girls into Little Women (author, Louisa May Alcott).

As much fiction is based on historical times, I was learning history, as well as lessons in life by seeing how others lived--societal and familial systems. The relationship with the March girls was what I longed for in my own life with my own three sisters.

I also was drawn to Nancy Drew Mysteries , authored collectively under the pseudonym, Carolyn Keene. They appealed to my curious and creative, inquisitive and analytical nature. I was always more interested in the "how" and "why" of the "who," than the "what" or "where."

Nancy Drew stories taught me about friendship, courage, independence, adventure, and that it was okay to be myself. I preferred those written prior to 1960, as Nancy was characterized as being outspoken, bold, and authoritative. Having lost her mother at an early age, being raised by her lawyer father, Carson Drew, and a housekeeper, it was no wonder that she took on the world.

Though my family situation was different, I clearly can see how I identified with this character and how she may have helped to shape me.

I also identified with one of Nancy's friends, Georgia "George" Fayne, who had short hair, was a bit of a tomboy, and who was bit awkward, yet fearless. Not refined, as Nancy was, George's character depicted a part of me that I never thought I could show--less than perfect. Together, these two fictional friends taught me about who I was and wanted to be, as a female.

The books that came out of the 1960s showed these two characters as less assertive, and quieter. They seemed to be less of what I wanted to be, and I lost interest in the advancing series, though I would reread the earliest volumes many times.

When I was in my 11th year, there was an incident with my father that changed how I viewed libraries, books and learning that I also carried with me throughout my life.

I began to avoid the library, at nearly all costs. The librarians all became crotchety, old females or stern, authoritarian males, who were intent to shush or scold me.

Learning, books, libraries, knowledge. Outspokenness, assertiveness, curiosity, desire. Family, friendship, love, relationship. It was then that my four-decade struggle began.

I was 11-years-old when this, my "special aunt," died the tragic death. A death that I mourned for more than 40 years, along with the abandonment of my sisters and friends I met in my early days.

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(Author's note: My reference to my aunt is not speaking of an actual family member. I used a "special aunt" as a simile to describe my relationship with or to the library.)

© Copyright 2015- Coral Levang - All Rights Reserved

#publiclibrary - - - -


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Rufuszen wrote on September 10, 2015, 2:10 PM

That is sad, I really liked libraries and still do. At one school, on the way home, there was a mobile library every week. Perfect. Course in those days it was just books!

Feisty56 wrote on September 10, 2015, 2:11 PM

I'm sorry to hear that your enjoyment of the library was squelched just as you were entering those pre-teen years of self-doubt and struggle to find an identity. The library, and the books, are much of what got me through the years before I became an adult -- those and my maternal grandparents. I recognize your special aunt was to you what my grandparents were to me. I cannot imagine having lost them to death at an early age. I would imagine you felt as if you lost both the compass and anchor in your life.

LoudMan wrote on September 10, 2015, 2:25 PM

Libraries are great places still, in spite of how morons try ruining the experience these days.

CoralLevang wrote on September 10, 2015, 2:36 PM

Libraries are not so quiet any more, &AbbyG least not the ones I have been in the last few years.

CoralLevang wrote on September 10, 2015, 2:43 PM

LoudMan I agree, and I am beginning to explore again, complete with conversations with smiling library workers! ( That was for &AbbyG 's benefit!)

markgraham wrote on September 10, 2015, 2:45 PM

A very thought provoking essay. I also like visiting the library just to be around the books and the believe it or not the smell and touch of them especially the leather bound ones that were in the stacks. The library is a world into itself. In children's literature I also like all the Nancy Drew books but I read them along with the Hardy Boys books. The two series for me go together as you know I was a child of the sixties and seventies. I even remember the old and today it would be lame but there was a Sunday night television show called The Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Mysteries. Maybe you remember it. Libraries let you make friends with book characters that can take you away from your problems well at least they did that for me the few problems I had.

CoralLevang wrote on September 10, 2015, 2:46 PM

There will be more to this "story," rufuszen . And the bright spot is that I have returned from time-to-time and hold two library cards. Eventually, I may start actually reading a lot again, and now simply getting piles of things to peruse and get bits and pieces from.

CoralLevang wrote on September 10, 2015, 2:51 PM

Feisty56 Thank you. The library, as my "special aunt," did feel like a compass and anchor in so many ways.
I also had a real aunt like that, though we did not live near to one another, and saw one another only once ever couple of years. Later in life, it was more frequent, when I returned to WA state. She passed away quite a long while ago, more than a decade now. I cannot remember when.
And I am stepping back into the library, though it doesn't feel quite like being around an old aunt it used to .

MegL wrote on September 10, 2015, 2:52 PM

I have loved the library all my life, from the few books in the classroom to the big library I could only go to when I was old enough to use the bus and now a whole University library, with the option of getting books or articles from anywhere in the world! I cannot imagine what my life would have been if that wonderful "aunt" had been taken from me.

CoralLevang wrote on September 10, 2015, 3:02 PM

markgraham Thank you. I felt the same. I also remember the TV show, but never was allowed to watch them. I also think you hit the nail on the head with "Libraries let you make friends with book characters that can take you away from your problems..."

CoralLevang wrote on September 10, 2015, 3:04 PM

MegL I only recently have realized just what happened, and how it affected my emotions, as well as my choices, as I entered into my life.

wolfgirl569 wrote on September 10, 2015, 3:05 PM

I used to like our library. But then the internet came along. Now I just dont go there anymore

CoralLevang wrote on September 10, 2015, 3:16 PM

When I realized that the Internet had so much information, I used it as I could for my curiousity, and quest for knowledge. I soon realized there was an over-abundance of misinformation out there that seemed to infiltrate the minds of others. It was as if people read it on the Net and they forgot they could challenge information, stopped being curious, and began to accept it as truth. Once read, one place, it must be true. I hope that we are swinging back to a time where critical thinkers are showing up again.

Colibry21 wrote on September 10, 2015, 8:17 PM

I'm sorry that things changed your views of libraries. I used to go to libraries a lot growing up, but then I went to university and had kids and my life just got busy. I don't have a lot of time to go to libraries.

wolfgirl569 wrote on September 10, 2015, 10:03 PM

I always sort heavily when looking for information. If it does not have a reference to something that I can go pick up like a book I am more careful about believing it. I also look at dates on the posts, they can be very helpful too. And snoops is always good for checking some facts. Like who really died lol

CoralLevang wrote on September 10, 2015, 11:51 PM

colibry21 I think that is why, at this stage of my life, it's coming back into focus. :)

Paulie wrote on September 11, 2015, 12:34 AM

I never really went to the library that much after we moved to the farm because my parents had a lot of books in their personal library. it seemed that they were always picking up used books. I have also read and enjoyed "Little Women" and I will be reading "Little Men" after I finish "Great Expectations" by Dickens.

Feisty56 wrote on September 11, 2015, 12:44 AM

I missed the editorial note that the aunt was actually the library. Mea culpa. I'm glad to hear you're going to get back to the library, though. Things have changed a lot over the years and I'm still getting my feet wet in things beyond books. It is walking through the stacks, getting lost in titles and the smell of books -- the aura of it all -- that I prefer most of all.

CoralLevang wrote on September 11, 2015, 1:39 AM

Feisty56 I remember the smell. I think I need to get to the big libraries one day. I hope that the smell is not gone.

CoralLevang wrote on September 11, 2015, 1:40 AM

Yes, I remember you sharing that about Alcott and Dickens. We did not have many books at our home, let alone a library. I wonder why, now that I think about it.

CalmGemini wrote on September 11, 2015, 3:15 AM

If I write a comment ,''I too loved libraries'', it does not convey what I have to say.About your post CoralLevang ,I feel like I just saw the tip of an iceberg.

inertia4 wrote on September 11, 2015, 11:02 AM

I liked going to the library when I was small. But I never went all the time. I haven't been back to one in a very long time. For good reason though, I haven't been reading books much lately. I have been online more than anything else. I might try going back this winter. I need the walking anyway.

CoralLevang wrote on September 11, 2015, 11:28 AM

CalmGemini It is so odd that you said this. I recently had someone that I met a year ago say to me: "You are so open about yourself, but I get the feeling that the depth that is not shown would be that of an iceberg." I think I tried to make a joke of it, albeit bad, about him calling me a "cold, hard woman." LOL (I know that was not what he was saying, but I get a bit embarrassed, I think, when I realize that people understand there is much more than what the eye can see, so to speak.

Two icebergs in two weeks. Not sure just what to think about that. emoticon :winking:

CoralLevang wrote on September 11, 2015, 11:30 AM

It is my dream to go to the big library there in NYC. I saw the outside the year I was there, nine years ago.

inertia4 wrote on September 11, 2015, 11:37 AM

I was only there once in my life actually. There is also a big one in Brooklyn. I have been there a few times. I wouldn't even think about going to Manhattan now since it is 9/11. I was there the first time when it happened. I want to stay away now.

CoralLevang wrote on September 11, 2015, 12:09 PM

I stayed in the Roosevelt in Manhattan for the few days I was there. I had fallen and sprained my ankle (worst sprain one can have medically) just a week before, and was on crutches. I did not get to do the walking and sight-seeing I wanted. But I loved NYC and the people I met. They knew I wasn't from there, though. ROFL Those are stories I should probably write.

Telynor wrote on September 11, 2015, 10:40 PM

I think that books are what kept me sane when I was a child. They were one of the few sane things in a very chaotic world for me.

CoralLevang wrote on September 12, 2015, 12:24 PM

Telynor...I think that may have been my experience, until they were used as part of the chaos.

inertia4 wrote on September 13, 2015, 10:00 AM

LOL. Well, we are unique type people here in NYC. It is easy to stop tourists here. As I am sure anywhere else. I remember going to Maine years ago and the people were amazed at how I talked. They knew where I was from. And one waitress actually pin pointed the Brooklyn accent. Nice!!!

CoralLevang wrote on September 13, 2015, 10:56 AM

Occasionally, I run into people here and have a chance to talk. I'll ask, "Brooklyn?" They respond something like, "I've been here (Seattle) for 20+ years and I still can't get rid of it." My reply,"Well, as long as you got rid of your Yankees cap, then it's all good!" Not sure whether they should be offended or amused, "Mariners fan?" "Nope," I start, " "Red Sox gal, here." I have made some wonderful friends with that beginning conversation or others similar. emoticon :winking: