Trip to the Bright Blue Library

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

My grandma and I were on a mission this afternoon to find the nearest library. Not knowing where we were going, we started to drive toward the gulf when we should have been heading toward the bay. We turned around and around. My car was starting to make funny noises, probably from dizziness.

“Is that it over there?” my grandma asked.

“No, gramz, that’s a church. Can’t you see the big cross and steeple?”

“Ohh Mallary, c’mon. You know I can’t see it that well!”

We eventually had to stop at a local Hess station to ask for directions.

“It’s right down the road on the right,” the cashier told us. “You can’t  miss it.”

She was right. Straight out of the 1960s, the flashy looking library stands on the edge of Drew Street, a bright blue sea amidst a field of green, a perfect home for a Smerf. I wish I had brought my camera with me to take some photos.

When I pulled into the parking lot I noticed that it was almost full. People of all ages were walking in and out of the library, a surprising change from the senior center of a library that I’m used to back home.

The library seems old-fashioned, but the people inside keep it young. Today, children read on their bellies, swinging their legs in the air as they entered into the world of Arthur the aardvark and Clifford the big red dog. Old people sat on chairs reading books while younger people about my age hovered around computer screens. I wondered how many of these people go to the library because they don’t own their own computers …

As I walked beside rows of books, I came across the Spanish language section of the library. A book about Shakira drew my attention, so I picked it up and started reading, hoping maybe I could figure out why “hips don’t lie.” Then I spotted Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “100 Years of Solitude.” Jackpot. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while, so when I found a copy in Spanish, I had to check it out.

There’s something about Spanish literature that I love, maybe the challenge of interpreting both the symbolism in the book and the language itself. Marquez, Lorca, Ibanez and Machado are among my favorite Spanish authors.

When I saw their names lining the shelves of the library, I couldn’t help but eye the covers of their books, feel their pages brush past my fingers, and smell their age. The whole library smelled like a worn book — slightly musty, but familiar. People peered at me through the bookshelves, probably wondering why I had my nose (literally) inside a book. I didn’t mind, though. I was just happy to see so many people there.

So often, I hear people talk about newspapers becoming obselete and about there being more and more illiterate children, but today’s trip to the library refuted these claims, if only for an hour in time. Even with all the reading material available on the Internet, I thought, people still appreciate books. There’s something special about holding a tangible piece of literature, something with a little smell and character to it, that a computer screen can hardly provide.

I felt this way whenever I went into the library at my alma mater, Providence College, where students would pore over dusty books in a scramble to write research papers. Phillips Memorial Library, which my friends and I called “Club Phill’s,” was the one of the ugliest building on campus, but it was one of the best places to catch up with friends and pretend to study.

It’s the place where I stayed up until 2 a.m. making copies for my term paper on the Knight’s Tale in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales sophomore year. It’s the place where I fumbled through my purse many a nights looking for change to make copies of old journals that were forbidden to leave the library. And it’s the place where my friend and I vowed to camp out overnight before graduating. We had a master plan of how we would elude security but alas, fear got the best of us. Too bad, because it would have been a great story to share …

There are plenty of stories floating around the little blue library, I’m sure. I don’t doubt I’ll return there again with my grandma before she goes home. When I do, I’ll fill you in on some of the characters I meet.

What are some of your interesting/fun/nerdy library stories?