A Reading Story: The Stacks


When I had exhausted every realistic fiction book in the children’s department of the library and had read every book from my grandparents and parents, I was ready for more books. I wandered across the hall at the central library and entered the Adult Section! Unfortunately, I was immediately stopped by a librarian who told me I was too young(at 12) to go in the adult section. This struck me as insane, but she did tell me that if my mother would write me a note, I would be allowed to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of books.In those days, not only were children not allowed in the adult section of the library, but the children’s department had a firm hand rejecting anything they didn’t find suitable. This excluded books like Oz and many other popular series considered low-brow.

So I dutifully got a letter from my mother, handed it over and found that there was more than a room full of adult books. There was THE STACKS. They had thousands of fiction books(the nonfiction stacks were still served by couriers) and I knew I would never be able to read them all. And to add to my pleasures, stacks have a wonderful smell of old books and neglected writers.

Totally overwhelmed with the bounty before me, and being the systematic reader I was, I began with the A’s and for the next six years worked my way around the alphabet finding writers to love and ones to pass by. None of them had covers, since they were all rebound, so there were no cover blurbs. I just dug in. What a bounty.

Here’s to libraries who keep old books “just in case.”

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