Wednesday, April 14, 2010

To all the libraries I've loved before...

With apologies to Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson, this is the perfect week to serenade, if not all libraries I’ve loved before, certainly the Top Five.

In all truth, I could not NOT love libraries.

I grew up in Philadelphia, home of Benjamin Franklin, founder of our country’s first subscription library, The Book Company, in 1731. Franklin and fellow Junto members each invested 40 shillings or more each year to support the library and buy books.
Annual Philadelphia grade school trips to Franklin’s Arch Street gravesite had me quoting proverbs from Poor Richard's Almanac to and fro.
I graduated the University of Pennsylvania, the college Franklin founded in 1651.
Maybe there was something in the water, either in the Delaware or the Schuylkill River?
There was certainly something book-loving in my home, where I often played Library, lending out my Golden Books, childhood biographies of famous Americans and Honeybunch titles to friends and neighbors, date-stamping their book cards and charging fair fines.

Here are my Top Five Brick-and-Mortar Library Loves in chronological order. I wouldn’t and couldn’t be a TeachingAuthor without them.

(1) The Penn Wynne Library, Wynnewood, Pennsvylania

The Penn Wynne Library was but a stone's throw away from my new suburban home. Thanks to my trusty library card, the first I'd ever owned, I spent my tenth year voraciously reading through the blue-spine-ed books on the "K" shelves of the library's Children's Room. I rode along with Nancy Drew and her River Heights companions, seated in the back of Nancy's spiffy blue roadster, supposedly following clues and feeling the breeze, yet unknowingly uncovering how to tell a story. Through adolescence, I sewed along with Jo and her sisters, I strode the moors, I walked the streets of Chicago with Sister Carrie. Writers are readers, and that's the Truth. How nice that my Penn Wynne Library gifted me with so many wonderful teachers.

(2) The Wilmette Public Library, Wilmette, Illinois

It's here I learned how to write for children, reading my way through and around the Children's Room of the Wilmette Public Library. The New Books shelf especially kept me current in the ever-changing world of children's book publishing. My library card also served as my Passport - to the Ozark Mountains, to 19th century America, to wherever my characters - and stories - lived.

(3) The Newberry Library, Chicago, Illinois

A non-subscription library, the oh, so beautiful Newberry Library houses a world-class collection of books, manuscripts, and maps, ranging from illuminated medieval manuscripts to rich genealogical resources, and from early printed books to the personal papers of Midwest authors. The Library is also home to my Writing Workshops - The Picture Book in the Fall, a Facilitated Children's Book Writer's Group in the Summer, a Nuts-and-Bolts Seminar in the Spring, and thus a bounty of talented children's book writers with whom I'm privileged to work.

(4) The Chicago Public Library, Chicago, Illinois

Eleven years ago, I traded my North Suburban Library System (and Wilmette Library card) for that of the Chicago Public Library and its Thomas Hughes Children's Library!  Here is where I now stock up weekly on the children's books that feed me. (And feed my students and writing clients, too, for that matter.)

(5) The Water Works Branch of the Chicago Public Library, Chicago, Illinois

Like my first library love, the Penn Wynne Library of my childhood, Chicago's newest branch, a tiny space within Chicago's Visitor Information Center in the Water Works off Michigan Avenue, is but a stone's throw away from my Chicago home.  Its Popular Library and shelves waiting to hold requested reserved books bring a smile each time I enter.  All I need do is visit CPL online, reserve whatever book I need/want/long for/wish for, and just like that (almost), the book's in my 'hood, a minute away, with my name on it.  
And how appropropriate is it that a library branch resides within a tourist facility?!
Oh, the traveling I've done at the libraries I've loved before.

Yesterday, when visiting Mrs. Lauren Gray’s Third Grade classroom at the George Armstrong International Studies Elementary School in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, I proudly showed my fellow writers my CPL Library Card.

“Despite the ads telling you otherwise," I shared, "THIS is the card you don’t want to leave home without!”

All of my personnaes - the Writer, the Teacher, the Writing Coach, the Teaching Author, the Former Child, the Adult and of course, the Mom, thank the above five libraries from the bottom of our book-lovers' hearts. We wish every library everywhere, built of real bricks or otherwise, Happy National Library Week!

Esther Hershenhorn

Don't forget to visit Shelli Srjohannes blog Market My Words to read other posts celebrating National Library Week.


Carmela Martino said...

Great photos, Esther. Thanks so much for sharing about these wonderful libraries!

Brimful Curiosities said...

Loved your library "walking tour." Hope to see the Newberry Library's beautiful architecture for myself some day.

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Oh, do make time and space in your Life to visit the Newberry.
Architecturally, the Newberry Library is a Winner, are the collections it houses.
The Kidlitosphere's very own Jenny Schwartzberg oversees the Children's Literature and you can see some original Mother Goose pieces.
Check out the offerings at
Happy Library Week!
Esther Hershenhorn

Beverley BevenFlorez said...

Thanks for sharing this with us. The libraries are lovely.