I had an odd observation this morning when I saw a post on Twitter about someone asking the last time people had gone to the library. For me, it’s been years and I got to thinking about why that is. If anyone follows me on my Facebook page you will remember me talking a few weeks ago about an experience I had as a kid with a librarian and teacher who wouldn’t allow me to check out Alice in Wonderland, because as a child they said I had a learning disability, even though I was an advanced reader and loved books. You can go back and read that here.
So as we all know it’s been something of a stereotype that librarians are mean and it’s usually portrayed that way in movies and books. So how true is it?
I will say that I know a lot of very nice and loving librarians, so this stereotype is clearly a false representation of who they are. Many love books and want to help share that with you. There is one particular retired children’s book librarian in our town library who I loved and she always made me feel welcome.
That being said, I got thinking about this and I realized something I never had before. I’m an author with a legit fear of the library. Yep. An author who is afraid of walking into a library, and here’s why.
I had several emotionally traumatic experiences with libraries over the course of my younger years, and to this day, it gives me severe anxiety to even step foot in one. Weird right? I mean, come on. I’m an author for gosh sake. Why would I be afraid of a library?
Well, I’ll tell you. It started in elementary school with me being a painfully shy kid and the librarian who would monitor the books I chose as if she didn’t think I was smart enough to read them. The one discussed in the Facebook post. It was absolutely ludicrous because my mother was very adamant about teaching me to read as soon as I was old enough to hold a book and turn the pages. I had full shelves of books before I was even old enough to understand them. I can not express how much I loved books and still do.
The next thing that sturred my fear was my junior high years when I was introduced to the local town library. The musty old building with books that lined the walls like welcoming friends… sort of. My fears as a shy teen were amplified when staff would watch over my friends and me like a hawk as if we were juvenile delinquents. All my friends and I wanted to do was read. I was met with rude responses and watchful eyes, and as a shy kid, that’s never comfortable.
I often would go to the child’s section in the basement just so I felt safe with the wonderful lady who worked there. I’m sure my friends always wondered why they would find me there reading Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein instead of the adult section with them reading things we were probably too naïve to even understand. (FYI: That is still one of my favorite childhood books.)
Then, there was high school and the same town librarian refused my library card application because… well, I don’t know the real reason exactly. She claimed someone had used my name and stolen some books, later to find out it was a stolen card. Now, I can see that’s probably not traumatic for most people, but for a shy girl that reading was her outlet, it was hard to swallow that I couldn’t check out books anymore. Into my adult years I still don’t have a library card, nor will I walk in to ask for one.
Now we get to me being a published author and desperately wanting to see one of my books on those shelves, despite the fact I carry those old fears. Yes, my books are not on their shelves and most likely never will be, but not for my lack of trying. Some day I hope they are and maybe that old trauma will disappear.
In the end, none of this stops me from reading thanks to ebooks and online shopping. In fact, I think it subconsciously pushed me to become a writer. I may still have that silly fear of a few mean old librarians, but nothing will stop me from loving books and sharing them with others.