The geography of the library figures into my earliest memories. When I was very young, I remember descending down the parking lot and through an unassuming side door that opened into a dark, quiet cavelike space that I mined for stacks of picture books. As I grew older, when the library was still uptown, it was the sanctuary and treasure at the end of my mother’s hand-drawn map that I clutched on my long, solitary walk from West Elementary.
When the library moved into the bright, beautiful space that it inhabits now, I loved to lay reading on my stomach, stretched out on the curved bench in the afternoon sun along the curving windows that the children’s stacks spoked into. Today, I can still remember the old layout and just where my favorite authors and sections were shelved. This was when I embraced the library as a space, that, while public, was still comfortable and homey, where you could connect with others or remain anonymous. While standing in line at the children’s desk, waiting to ask Linda for help finding a book, I had the sudden insight that if I ever worked at a desk, I would want a desk just like hers–a tiny island in the middle of a sea of books, cheerful, and scaled just right for children to approach.
Before the existence of the shelf which is currently the end of the adult fiction collection and previously held the cookbooks, was the place was where, as a teen, I curled up reading young adult books as well as books that I had found venturing away into the neighboring sections, first science fiction and westerns, probably because they were closest, then adult literature and nonfiction, most opening gates into new worlds within the cozy confines of the YA corner.
Despite having lived several years far away, I have–to my surprise and delight–returned to Athens County, and work not at Linda’s desk, but one very much like it. To me, the library’s landscape is neither static nor shallow. I still make new discoveries and forge new connections, and I doubt this will ever change, no matter how long my career or patronage at the county libraries.