By Lois Lowry
I was five. My sister, three years older, with whom I shared a bedroom, complained to Mother that I constantly cluttered up the space by arranging dolls and books to create a setting that I called “The Library.” It was winter, Pennsylvania, too cold to play outdoors. My sister was in school; I wasn’t, yet. Mother was busy with our newborn baby brother. And so I had created The Library there in a corner of our bedroom.
The dolls—and there were many, in a household with two little girls—were the patrons. I was the librarian, of course. Carefully I helped each patron (one was Olympic skater Sonja Henie, in a velvet fur-trimmed skating costume; another was Shirley Temple, with dimples in her celluloid cheeks) select their books. “I think you’ll enjoy this one, Sonja. It’s called Hans Brinker. It’s about ice skating.”
I was fortunate to live in a house filled with books and with a mother, a former teacher, who not only read to us each night but also frequently took us the library two blocks away in our small college town. I moved away from that town when I was eleven but always remembered the public library with its hundred marble steps that I had climbed so often with my arms filled with books. (Returning many years later as an adult, I realized there were only ten cement steps, that I had endowed it in my mind with an entrance worthy of a temple.)
Bosler Memorial Library, Carlisle PA . . .the library of my childhood memories
“And she keeps doing that thumping thing!” my sister complained. It was true. As I checked out each book for my rigid, wide-eyed, immobile, imaginary readers, I laid it carefully on the little table and thumped it twice with my fist. Thump. Thump. “Here you are, Shirley. Mr. Popper’s Penguins!” I had no idea what that double thump meant; it was simply what I watched my own real librarian do in those long-ago pre-electronic days before she handed the books down across the counter to me as I waited on tiptoes to take them home. It seemed magic to me—thump, thump, and the books were mine—and she the magician.
Looking back now, more than seventy five years later, it still seems so.∎
We’re beyond thrilled to welcome author Lois Lowry as our inaugural guest writer for a new column, My Library Memories.
In each new issue of Mason Street, we hope to have a well-known writer or public figure share their own special memories of going to the public library, and of the impact it’s had on their life. Welcome, Lois!
Photo credit: Matt McKee