Originally published June 2014
Do you have a happy place?
I have several—nothing as awe-inspiring as that constructed by Happy Gilmore, but places that do make me happy. The beach, my bed, the clearance shoe room at Von Maur … but nothing fails to turn a frown upside down than a trip to the library.
Why do I love the library so? Because it can be anything I want it to be, except perhaps, open at 2 a.m.
Libraries can be a gathering place—I have the best memories of story times and magic shows with my three kids. They won’t remember, I’m sure. But even on a bad day, you could count on at least one other mother that could commiserate with you when your child has a mid-afternoon meltdown on the multi-colored adventure train mat in the middle of the children’s area.
Libraries can be for loners—Don’t want to hang with all the moms? Kids? No one? The library can be that, too. Library law dictates much of the building is quiet, and there are nooks and crannies all over the place in which you can hide.
Libraries are a “No Judgin'” Zone—There are some books you just can’t bring yourself to buy. Whether it’s Snooki’s autobiography or the bible on cooking with Spam, no one there is gonna care. Chances are, the guy standing in the checkout line has an equally embarrassing book in the crook of his arm. Libraries are havens for book lovers—everyone is welcome.
And it’s not just about the books. Try to go to a bookstore without a bra on, and you could get a snicker or two. But run in to the library for a quick pickup in your PJs, boots and hat, and it’s no biggie. I don’t recommend it … but no one’s going to crucify you if your hair’s not done and you haven’t put on makeup.
Libraries are endless sources of entertainment—Well, of course, right? There’s no shortage of exciting reads, music to enjoy and DVDs to watch while “Game of Thrones” is on hiatus. But wait! There’s more! Classes, concerts, travel series, cooking demos and book clubs are all part of the free admission. And should you choose to just sit for a bit, the people watching can be astounding. See above note for what I may look like on any given day, and you see what I mean.
Contrary to the stereotype, librarians are an awesome bunch—I can only speak for my little slice of heaven, but the folks that work in Glenview, Wilmette, Evanston, Northbrook and Des Plaines have always been sociable, pleasant and eager to help. And they don’t begrudge the revolving door that is my late fee record. Ask a librarian a question and they’ll chat you up, share recommendations and point you in the right direction.
Libraries are a refuge—As a child, I indulged my passion for reading with wild abandon, thanks to my library card and parents that had no problem with a little kid that buried her head in a book. We moved a lot, and libraries offered consistency and familiarity from city to city. I may not have known how to find the mall, but I knew where the library was.
Even into adulthood, libraries have been the thread that connects one phase of my life to the next. Long after I spent hours in the stacks for research papers, flipping through card files, I returned with my own kids to show them what a book can do for you. Where you can go, what you can be … and I still go for my own fulfillment. Don’t get me wrong—I can just as easily get lost in a great indie bookstore. But whereas there I stand at the counter weighing my options, at the library, I can have it all.
Ah, my happy place.