During this monsoon rainy season, I found myself curling up in a chair and reading a lot. It reminded me of when I was a kid and my dad used to take me to the old Arlington Central Library to get the maximum number of books allowable for the two weeks. I remembered shades of yellow as I perused the kids section and then tried to sneak over to the adult side of the old building to get the better books about snakes.
That downtown building got a little more sickly yellow in my memory, but that old trusty library branch became my Internet hub during high school. I updated my Xanga blog and Myspace page from the computers upstairs before wandering around the aisles just looking for books that caught my eye.
In college, I would teach English as a Second Language at the old Literary House location, still used the computers and spent hours pursuing photography books.
The Arlington Public Library was everything to me.
Then I just stopped going.
For almost a decade, I forgot about the library. It might have had something to do with moving away and coming back or my ongoing desire to own a personal library, but the library became a song of nostalgia that I haven’t heard in awhile.
When they announced the new George W. Hawkes Downtown Library, I didn’t even go to say goodbye to my old childhood friend, the Central branch.
But about a year ago, I found my old library card — this beat-up sad piece of plastic — and wondered if it was still valid. So I went to the Woodland West Branch to inquire. I had a $3.50 fine (for what, I couldn’t even begin to guess), but I got a new library card.
So I checked out a book.
Then all that nostalgia came back – but something else reared its head. This wasn’t the public library system I grew up with. It was so much better.
If you don’t think so, just go to the George W. Hawkes Downtown Library. That branch is a marvel of a community space and worth checking out all the events, activities and amenities that it has.
I mean, it has a 3D printer, a genealogy room and multilingual story times for kids.
One of my favorite things at that location is the Seed Library. You can “check” out seeds for your garden.
I even geeked out about the radio waves they use to check out books (no more hand scanner).
And then there’s Libby.
Libby is an app that allows you to check out eBooks and audio books. All you have to do is link your library card in the app and then you have access to a pretty impressive online library.
You can even sync your Kindle account so once you check out a book, you can read it on your e-reader.
This has made it so much easier to read more. Now, if I finished a book, I could just check out another one on the fly. I even once did so while waiting for a friend who was unexpectedly late for dinner.
When you are someone who feels anchored to their phone, it is nice to know that at least that anchor can teach me a thing or two.
And I still can have the best of both worlds with physical books to read in my favorite reading spot.
The library system grew up with me, and I am happy that I didn’t let it pass me by.
For more information about Libby and the Arlington Public Library, visit arlingtonlibrary.org.