The end of the old library

Mariners Library Sign

They closed my childhood library and opened a newer, bigger one next door.

I haven’t been to the new one yet. Apparently they didn’t buy any new books but there are laptops and iPods and expansive expanses of formica. The library is now to be run like a business by business-like people, and multimedia is the future.

Mariners Library Closed

I was well-educated in our local public schools and by my parents, but the real autodidactic core of my learning happened at this local branch library. I first read through the children’s section, checking out as many books as I could carry each time. Classic children’s fiction, books about cars and guns and planes, biographies, history books, science, the whole damn thing probably except for the girly books and the sports stuff. I have a vivid mental image of the children’s librarian, a very large redheaded woman with impossibly big arrms covered in freckles.

I then moved to the adult section and chewed on it for a decade. When I got interested in a subject (history of architecture! the invention of the atomic bomb! Wales!) I went through the Dewey Decimal number for that and related interests and read every book that was not obviously stupid. I haunted the new books shelf for anything I knew was coming. I read all of the science fiction, all of the nonfiction on any subject that interested me, and a good two-thirds of the fiction. I went through the records and found peculiar worlds and visited them: who is this Warren Zevon? What does Blue Öyster Cult sound like? Why would someone switch on Bach?

Mariners Library Checkout

The library employees all knew me, and they were my friends. I’d go back and forth in that checkout, sometimes more than once in a day. The paper library card with the little metal number stamp in it went CLUNK! as each book was checked out, and they said “Now remember to read them all!”

The park outside the library contained my first ever school, a play group for pre preschool kids. It was the site of countless family picnic lunches, a thousand ball games, the annual 4th of July Bike Parade, and later on for long reading stretches after school and before I went home to deal with being a teenager.

Mariners Park

I left and moved to Los Angeles for a decade. When I came back I had got out of the library habit, which still bothers. Mariners Branch was part of my past by then anyway. It was a small place with a small collection, and I’d read most of it. I’m sad to see it gone, though. When I left that place and went out into the world, I was as prepared as books can make a boy.

Mariners Library - Looking Out

Other pictures in the set are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ch/sets/72057594129847160/

9 thoughts on “The end of the old library

  1. NO!
    When I was a kid I’d go to Mariners when my Gran was taking care of me (the one next to the firehouse on 19th was my regular place).
    I think I still owe them for a book or two that I managed to lose for a few decades.

  2. Lyeberry
    I used to get so much work done at the library back in Douglas (“on
    Douglas”? Douglas is <a href=
    “http://maps.google.com/maps?q=Douglas,+Alaska&t=k&om=1&ll=58.276919,-134.424934&spn=0.179079,0.692139”
    >the island as well as the town). There was no diner near where I was living, and so the library was a godsend. And the collection was small but decent, and you could ILL from U Alaska libraries. And the view out their big bay window was <a href="http://westjuneau.com/WordPress/2005/12/14/juneau-with-backdrop-of-mt-juneau-and-mt-roberts/&quot;
    >astonishing.
    It was wonderful, and the lack of wireless there (altho they probably have it now– this was 2003) meant I would actually work on things instead of reading ALDaily stuff.
    I miss places. Stupid brain.

  3. We need to all live in the Charlie Brown world. With no worries, big heads, and parental figures which mumble incoherently. God I miss childhood, thank you for sharing your’s with us.

  4. Childhood’s End
    For me, it was where I discovered poetry and science fiction and then science, a little later than many of my friends, admittedly. It was a safe place. I understand that the world changes and things evolve or die off as the case may be, but keeping a hold on my past is important to me.
    But the Mariner’s Library was a touchstone. It was a viceral and empirical proof and reminder that I really did live in that time and place, and even if I couldn’t go back there, I could at least see it, and look at the path that lead away from there to where I am now.
    As I have said before in other places, I can be prone to absolutely grotesque fits of hellishly nostalgic introspection, complete with 80s power chords and soft focus montages… But perhaps there is nothing wrong a little bit of idealization of one’s past, at least those parts that still resonate with us today.
    mojo sends

  5. The O.C. libraries were a key part of my education, too. They’re where I went from reading to Stephen King to H.P. Lovecraft and eventually other good stuff. Also where I happened on the work of John Kenneth Galbraith, who died recently, and even though I couldn’t understand half of what he wrote at 14, I took away enough to realize that my history teacher might not be right about people on welfare. The collections at the Santa Ana and Laguna Niguel branches were – and probably remain – terribly outdated, but they pointed me in all of the right directions.
    Thanks for this.

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