Submitted by Carol Ghattas - Growing up on East Main, I was within easy walking distance of Linebaugh Public Library, then located on East College Street. That would be reason enough for me to have a love for my libraries, but I have many other reasons as well to share during this February post. While many are waiting for that special valentine or rushing out to buy roses and chocolates, I’m showing my love for libraries, because it’s National Library Lovers Month!
Libraries have a long history. Almost as long as man has written, man has collected writings. The earliest private libraries are dated to around 500 B.C. in Greece, and many know of the great library of Alexandria, which dates around 250 B.C. Having lived in Egypt, I have seen the modern version of this great wonder of the world, so I can only imagine how amazing the original must have been for its time.
Even in our national history, libraries or collections of books arrived early on, and many of our Founding Fathers had expansive personal libraries. Benjamin Franklin opened the first library in the North American colonies in 1731, where paying members could borrow books for free and non-members could read them in-house.
Books are meant to be shared. Lending libraries were the first “social-media” expression for Americans. Just as we love to share ideas and posts with others, we share books. Who among us hasn’t read a good book and immediately told a friend or family member? Those who received books from my father’s personal library were sure to find underlined passages and notes of agreement or disapproval in the margins. Sharing his books, he shared his perspective and opinions. For this reason, I’m a person who must buy a book that I really like, after reading it first from the library. Marking a text is in my genes!
While writing in a library copy is discouraged, those books which are popular among a local population remain on the shelves and are replaced as the years of wear and tear take their toll. Why? Because in checking out a book, we show our appreciation for the writer and content. Those writers that miss the mark, miss out on long-term usage.
A love for libraries is a learned virtue. Readers run deep in my family. My grandmother, who lived with us on East Main, was widely read and knew her authors well. This love for books was instilled in my father, who married another book-lover in Helen Brown, my mother. Their personal library was large, causing my brother to build an entire wall of bookshelves in our home to carry the collection. Downsizing in their later years was painful mainly due to the need to relieve themselves of a large portion of their library. Reading was part of our lives, and as my father grew into his eighties and nineties following my mother’s death, his home became a haven for countless books. He handpicked the men who would have the first choice in his books following his death.
My mother went to work the year I started kindergarten, and though she had no college degree, she was hired as a librarian by Briley Adcock, then head of Linebaugh Public Library. For the next two decades, she dedicated her life to service in that institution. My walking to the library was two-fold: to get a book and to see my mother. Not only did I love my local public library, but I served in my school library as well.
Marguerite Thackston, my father’s cousin, was librarian at Reeves-Rogers Elementary School in the 1970s, when I started school. It was in second grade that I began helping her by stamping books and checking out the class materials. I worked each summer to help Marguerite with mending and other tasks. Moving to middle and then high school, I then helped Patsy Rogers and Betty Dodd, librarians at Oakland High.
Personal, public, and school libraries were not the only libraries in my life. As members of First Baptist Church, our church library was also integral in my growth, not only as a reader but as a Christian. Mother helped then church librarian, Isa Lee Freeman, to grow that collection and serve the congregation well. One of my favorite memories is going with Mother and Dad to either the Lifeway bookstore or Davis-Kidd in Nashville. While Mother shopped for books for the church, I wandered the stacks and read. Mother later became the church librarian and continued the strong tradition of feeding the minds as well as the hearts of our fellow parishioners.
It all starts with one book. Reading to children early is the first step toward a love of books and all things library. After twelve years as Branch Manager at Linebaugh Public Library, I still smile when a child cries while a parent tries to get them out the door. It’s not because I’m happy at their pain or that quiet will return upon their exit, but because I know a seed has been planted in that small heart—Libraries are fun. Libraries hold treasures. Libraries are places of wonder.
The library I work in today is not the same as that of my mother, but it is still a place where everyone is welcomed, adventure can be found, and relationships built. Communities with libraries, private, public, school, or religious, thrive and grow. That’s why I love libraries, and I hope that’s why you do too.
Grace and Peace
About Article Submission Writer: Carol B. Ghattas is a writer, speaker, and active blogger. Subscribe to her blog, lifeinexile.net, or follow her on Facebook or Instagram. Connect with her at lifeinexile.net. Photo submitted by Carol Ghattas.