I rode my bike to the library almost every summer day when I was a kid. It was a cozy stone building with leaded windows, and I loved stepping into the sudden quiet of Mrs. Pinkerton’s realm. She sat at the big oak desk, reading glasses on a chain around her neck, library stamp in hand, at the ready to grant me whole other worlds.
She’d nod in welcome. (We rarely spoke.) I’d set the books I’d finished on the cart, then head for the children’s section, where I’d make my way slowly from A to Z, reading titles, taking one down to read the jacket flap, maybe/maybe not putting it on my pile. Mostly, I read the same books again and again. Little House on the Prairie; Betsy, Tacy, and Tib; The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew. And those orange biographies: Sacajawea: American Pathfinder; Dolly Madison, Quaker Girl. Books about happy families, books about loyal friends, books about girls who’d made something of their lives.
When I’d made my choices, I’d hand them to Mrs. Pinkerton and watch with awe as she did that thing she did with the library stamp, her hand flying back and forth from the ink pad to the grid pasted in the back of each book. She’d stamp the date on my pink library card, then write in the number of books I’d checked out that day. And I’d exit, blinking, into the sunshine.
Libraries saved me then, and libraries remain among my favorite places in the world today. So I loved going to Minneapolis last week to give librarians free copies of my books at PLA.
“Hey!” I’d call out. “We have Everything You Want! Right here at the Llewellyn/Flux booth! And it’s free!”
I met lots of wonderful librarians—and a few of their teenage kids, masquerading as librarians so they could browse the exhibit hall. I met Kevin from Kalamazoo, who made my day when he told me he’d read and loved Wish You Were Here when it first came out. It made me really, really happy to give him a copy of the new paperback.
I like to think that Mrs. Pinkerton would be pleased to know that I’d grown up to write books of my own--to be checked out by librarians who are as important to kids' lives as she was to mine.